Lisbon Rotary Club elects new president.jpg

Lisbon Rotary Club elects new president

MIDDLE EASTERN dancing marked the election of the Lisbon Rotary Club’s new president and directors at the Hotel Tivoli on Monday. Outgoing president, Maria Fátima Guerreiro, handed over to the new president, João Graça Oliva, who will take the helm for 2006/7, reports The Resident’s Chris Graeme.

The Rotary Club of Lisbon, which was founded in 1926, is part of a worldwide business and professional organisation that provides humanitarian aid and encourages high ethical standards in business practice.

There are approximately 350 Rotarians in the Greater Lisbon area who form part of the 1.2 million Rotarians belonging to more than 32,000 clubs in 200 countries worldwide.

The world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, Illinois, was formed in 1905 by Paul P. Harris, a lawyer who wished to capture in a professional club the same spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth.

The name ‘Rotary’ derives from the early practice of ‘rotating’ meetings among member officers.

The Rotary Club has four essential tenants of belief called the Four Way Test which was created by Rotarian, Herbert J Taylor, in the 1920s. In any business or professional undertaking, Rotarians strive to ask and answer four simple questions: 1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The organisation is often misunderstood and accused of being secretive and Masonic in its outlook, despite the fact that it raises money and helps hundreds of charities and good causes, such as children’s and elderly homes and hospices the world over. This image had not been helped by the fact that the organisation only admitted women for the first time in 1989.

Since 1985, the International Rotary Club raised money to immunise one billion children worldwide against the threat of polio, and it also helped set up UNESCO in 1946.

In Portugal, the Rotary Club was initially greeted with suspicion by the autocratic and oligarchic government of António de Oliveira Salazar, until Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s brother, who was a member, persuaded both leaders of the useful function of the Rotary Club.

The Lisbon Rotary Club banner also has an interesting story behind it. It came into use in 1974/5 and shows the coat of arms of the city of Lisbon on the front and the Rotary International Club emblem in gold, on a blue background, on the reverse.

It also carries a representation of the coats of arms of Lisbon in black and white with the two crows, which are also part of the city arms shown in red.

The story goes that in AD 304, when Diocletion, the great enemy of the Christians, was Emperor of Rome, a Christian deacon by the name of Vincent was barbarously martyred in Valencia. His lifeless body was left outside the city for the wild animals to devour, but was miraculously guarded by two crows, which would not allow any other animal to come near.

The body was hidden by the Christians and taken away by ship and buried on the Cape of Sagres (Cape St. Vincent) in the Algarve.

In 1173, after Lisbon had been recaptured from the Moors by the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, the king sent a ship to the Algarve to bring the mortal remains of the saint to Lisbon. Throughout the return voyage, the two crows followed the ship and remained with the martyr’s body until it was laid to rest in Lisbon Cathedral. Legend has it that the crows which inhabit the cloister today are the descendants of those that came back with the body of St. Vincent.  


Next week: The charitable work of Lisbon Rotary Club.