In September of last year, by decree of Pope Francis, the new statutes of the Order of Malta, the constitutional charter and the related Melitense CodeThe Chapter was held on 25 January 2023, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
Led by the Pope's Special Delegate, Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi - who has overseen the entire renewal process in recent months - and by Lieutenant Grand Master John Dunlap, the Chapter then elected in recent days all the members of the Sovereign Council, who will remain in office for six years.
The French friar Emmanuel Rousseau (Grand Commander) and the Italians Riccardo Paternò de Montecupo (Grand Chancellor), Fra' Alessandro de Franciscis (Grand Hospitaller) and Fabrizio Colonna de Paliano (Receiver of the Common Treasury) were elected as high officials for the period 2023-2029, practically reconfirmed after the appointments made by Pope Francis when approving the new Constitution.
The nationality of the Councilors of the Sovereign Council is more varied: Friar João Augusto Esquivel Freire de Andrade, Friar Roberto Viazzo, Friar John Eidinow, Friar Mathieu Dupont, Friar Richard J. Wolff, Brother Francis Joseph McCarthy, Brother Michael Grace, Brother Clement Riva Sanseverino and Brother Josef Blotz.
The Extraordinary General Chapter was attended by 111 members of the Order of Malta from all five continents.
The way of the Gospel in the Order of Malta
Before the Chapter was held, Pope Francis had wanted to be present through a message to the participants, in which he reaffirmed the special characteristics of the Order as an evangelizing mission in favor of the neighbor and especially those in difficulty, the afflicted. Knowing that "to build a more just world, there is no other way than that of the Gospel; we are called to begin with ourselves, practicing charity wherever we live".
Forgiveness and reconciliation
One cannot forget the reference to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation "after moments of tensions and difficulties experienced in the recent past", with the awareness of knowing how forgiveness is also a sign of freedom and generosity, "expression of a merciful heart", just, following the example of the Lord.
Finally, Pope Francis recalled the importance of unity within the Order, precisely in order to be credible in its work, knowing full well that conflict and opposition damage the mission and distance it from Christ.
"The gratuitousness and fervor with which you have embraced the Johannine ideal are well represented by the octagonal cross you wear: it recalls the evangelical beatitudes, with the eight points of the Maltese cross. Be proud and worthy of it, remembering him who, on the cross, gave his life for our salvation".
At the conclusion of the Chapter, the members were received in audience by the Holy Father at the Vatican. On this occasion, the Pontiff expressed his satisfaction for the success of the process that led to the election of the new Officers. And also for the new commitments on the front of vocations to the Order of Malta. In particular, it was decided to reopen a novitiate and the importance of initial and ongoing formation for all members was emphasized.
The Order of Malta and the needy
Francis then shared a reflection on the terms that qualify the Order: sovereign, military, hospitable. He reiterated the generosity and commitment to solidarity of all the members, who, thanks also to international diplomatic juridical protection, can be close to those most in need.
In the Order, the witness of the Gospel must never fail "in the struggle against all that opposes it," the Holy Father added, nor in the expression of closeness and tenderness to all who suffer, as good shepherds and good Samaritans. These are characteristics proper to the hospitaller tradition of the Order, following the example of the Founder, Blessed Gerard, who cared for pilgrims in Jerusalem in the Hospital named after St. John the Baptist.