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Pope promulgates new Constitution of the Order of Malta

Pope Francis promulgates the new Constitution of the Order of Malta and appoints a provisional Sovereign Council, as part of an ongoing renewal process of the Order. He announces the convocation of the Extraordinary General Chapter for January 25, 2023, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

By Vatican News staff writer

Pope Francis has taken the next steps in the renewal of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (the Sovereign Military Order of Malta) with a decree issued on Saturday. 

The Decree establishes the new Constitutional Charter and related Melitense Code of the Order, taking effect immediately, the revocation of the High Offices, and the dissolution of the current Sovereign Council governing the Order. The Decree also names a provisional Sovereign Council whose members are: Fra' Emmanuel Rousseau, Grand Commander; Riccardo Paternò di Montecupo, Grand Chancellor; Fra' Alessandro de Franciscis, Grand Hospitaller; Fabrizio Colonna, Receiver of the Common Treasure. The directive also calls for an Extraordinary Chapter General on 25 January 2023, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

Pope Francis highlights in the text that the Order has "always enjoyed special protection from the Apostolic See," pointing out how, over the centuries, the various popes have "acted to affirm the identity, to maintain operations, to help overcome crises, as well as to guarantee the existence and development" of the Order, including in its rights of sovereignty in the international sphere.

The Pope also recalls how the prerogatives of the Order do not constitute the set of powers and prerogatives proper to sovereign entities "in the full sense of the word," as stipulated in the 24 January 1953 ruling issued by the Tribunal of Cardinals. As a religious Order, therefore, it "depends in its various forms, on the Holy See." 

The Pope explains how through the years he has followed the journey of the Order "with paternal care and concern," and expresses appreciation for its outreach in various parts of the world and his gratitude for "the generous contribution of Members and Volunteers," while "also noting the need to begin a profound spiritual, moral and institutional renewal of the entire Order." The Pope notes that he has entrusted the "important work of reform" to his Special Delegate, Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, who was also charged with the revision of the Constitutional Charter, the Melitense Code; and, together with the Order's Lieutenant Grand Master, the preparation of the Extraordinary Chapter General. "Many steps were taken," writes the Pope, "but there were just as many hurdles and difficulties encountered along the way."

Finally, with the Decree, Pope Francis confirms "all the faculties attributed in the past" to his Special Delegate "until the conclusion of the Extraordinary General Chapter."

In a statement issued by the Grand Magistry of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’ John Dunlap, Lieutenant to the Grand Master and head of the Provisional Government of the Order, said: “The Order of Malta welcomes the paternal actions of His Holiness which demonstrate the great love the Pontiff has for our Order. In his careful review of the various proposals put before Him these last months, the Pope has determined a path forward that promises to ensure the Order’s future both as a Religious Institute and a Sovereign Entity."

The Lieutenant to the Grand Master further notes, that “the Pope’s decision to empower a Provisional Government is the first step in a clear blueprint for more efficient, streamlined governance for the Order." He also writes that the long-awaited Chapter General "will enable the Order to move beyond the Provisional Government to a regularised Government in conformity with its new Constitution." He also paid tribute to the "variety of accomplished and talented Knights in the Order’s governance" opening will help offer a fresh outlook on how to face today's challenges. Regarding the new Constitution, he describes it as "a carefully crafted document that speaks to the complexity and nature of a thousand-year-old religious order."

In conclusion, on behalf of the entire Order, he extends his "heartfelt thanks" to Pope Francis and his Special Delegate, Cardinal Silvano Tomasi, "for the care, thoroughness, and love they have exhibited for our Order.”

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03 September 2022, 11:10