(File photo): Members of the Order of the Knights of Malta arrive in St Peter's Basilica for their 900th anniversary, 2013. (File photo): Members of the Order of the Knights of Malta arrive in St Peter's Basilica for their 900th anniversary, 2013. 

Pope to Order of Malta: after the divisions, it is time for concord

Pope Francis sends a message to the General Chapter of the Order of Malta, called to live in fidelity to the new Constitutional Charter.

By Alessandro de Carolis

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is holding an extraordinary Chapter General with 111 members called to elect - under the chairmanship of the Lieutenant Grand Master Fra' John Dunlap and Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Pope's special delegate - the Grand Commander, the Grand Chancellor and the other top positions, on the basis of the new Constitutional Charter and the new Codex Melitense.

Challenge to the worldly mentality

Marking the event, Pope Francis sent a message to the order. His reflection on this new journey of the Order opens with his thanks to the members for their "almost millenary" work, carried out in the humanitarian, medical and social fields and which today counts Lampedusa, "with migrants who have fled their countries", and Ukraine and surrounding areas "for those fleeing war", among its main poles of activity. "To build a more just world, there is no other road than that of the Gospel," the Pope writes, and of "great merit," he acknowledges, "is your work of consoling the afflicted, both in their spiritual and material needs. The Pope adds that this is just as the challenge against "the worldly, selfish and today consumerist mentality" belongs to you, to be faced "with your exemplarity of life and your works of mercy".

Unity in the Rule

Pope Francis emphasised that this heritage of charity needs a coherence of life with the Gospel and with the rules of the Order, because "without faith" those same works "would only be philanthropy". Coherence today, on the threshold of the new course, passes in particular, for all members of the First, Second and Third Class of the Order, from observing in personal and community practice the new Constitutional Charter and the Codex Melitense, "the fruit," the Pope recalls, "of a long journey" within the Order, lived "not without contrasts," and finally arriving at the new norms that can now bring "the whole Order," he says, "a spiritual renewal and work in charity, thus strengthening its unity.

Strengthen unity

Precisely the theme of unity, constitutive of the Knights of Malta, is a point on which the Pope insists with a direct appeal to the conscience of each one. "I heartily ask you," the message reads, "to come to a sincere mutual forgiveness, to reconciliation, after moments of tension and difficulties that you have experienced in the recent past. May the charity of forgiveness be the way of life that distinguishes you'. And a little further on - offering guidance on how to conduct life within community structures - Pope Francis reiterates the thought: "firmly strengthen your unity, otherwise you will not be credible in your works. Conflicts and oppositions damage your mission". The life trajectory of those who militate in the Order of Malta should be the same as that of Jesus, who "reigns in humility, from a manger and a cross".

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

25 January 2023, 12:30