Fra’ Andrew Bertie, the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, a man known for his holiness and the modernizing of the order, passed away on February 7 in Rome at the age of 78.
The Sovereign Order of Malta traces its roots back to 1050, when it was known as the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The lay religious Order consists of 12,500 people who are either Professed Friars or lay men and women referred to as Knights and Dames. All members devote themselves to the exercise of Christian virtue and charity, spiritual perfection within the Church and to serving the poor and the sick, according to the Order’s website.
Fra’ Bertie brought a wide range of gifts to the Order. His educational background included studies at Ampleforth College, Christ Church Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. After military service in the Scots Guards, he worked as a financial journalist in the City of London, before taking up the senior post in Modern Languages (French and Spanish) at Worth School, Sussex.
Andrew Bertie began his life in the Order of Malta in 1956 and took his solemn religious vows in 1981. When he was elected Grand Master of the Order in 1988, he became the first Englishman to hold the post in the group’s 900 year history.
Besides being known for his linguistic ability—he spoke five languages fluently—Fra’ Bertie is also acknowledged for his role in modernizing the Order’s humanitarian programs, increasing membership and extending the possibilities of aid to the poor and the needy in far-flung regions.
He is also credited with increasing the number of the Order’s bilateral diplomatic missions from 49 to 100. These missions have the delicate task of offering assistance to afflicted countries in times of natural disasters or armed conflicts.
The official announcement of the religious brother’s death describes him as, “A man of quiet reflection and wide interests, although of a certain British reserve,” who “was much loved by all who worked with him on his many projects.”
“When possible, he spent his holidays at his home in Malta, where he was very involved in organizing and teaching judo courses for children as well as tending his farm, whose four different varieties of oranges were a constant source of pride in good weather and anxiety in bad,” the announcement said.
Fra’ Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was highly decorated and honored during his life. He received four honorary doctorates, several honorary citizenships and more than 50 decorations from other countries.