“The Order of Malta is convinced that Pope Francis' decision will accelerate the process of reform of the Constitutional Charter and Code, enabling the Order to elect a Grand Master in the near future, and to continue its mission of service to the poor and the sick,” it said.
Founded in Jerusalem in the year 1048, the Sovereign Order of Malta today operates mainly in the field of medical and humanitarian assistance as a primary body of international law and a lay Catholic religious order.
The order has faced a slow-moving constitutional crisis since Pope Francis compelled the resignation of a previous Grand Master, Fra' Matthew Festing in 2017.
That decision came after Festing himself had compelled the resignation of Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager Boeselager in 2016, after it became known that an aid project of the order in Myanmar had distributed thousands of condoms. Boselager insisted that he had not known about the distribution of condoms, and that he had put a stop to it as soon as he became aware.
In 2017, Boeselager was reinstated as Grand Chancellor, and Becciu was appointed as the pope's personal delegate to oversee the order's reform, effectively supplanting the role of the order's Cardinal Patron, Cardinal Raymond Burke, who remains in post only nominally.
As part of its reform, the Order of Malta has considered changes to the office of Grand Master itself, and the role of the first degree of professed knights – those who make perpetual religious vows – in the governance of the order, as opposed to the second and third degrees, who do not.
Today the Order of Malta, with its 13,500 members, 80,000 volunteers, and its staff of 42,000 professionals, has a mission of witnessing the faith and serving the poor and the sick. The Order manages hospitals, medical centers, clinics, institutions for the elderly and disabled, centers for the terminally ill, volunteer corps, and has a relief agency, Malteser International.
Since 1834 the seat of the Government of the Sovereign Order of Malta has been in Rome, where it has guarantees of extraterritoriality.
The Order of Malta has bilateral diplomatic relations with 110 states, official relations with six other states, ambassadorial relations with the European Union and is a permanent observer to the United Nations and its specialized agencies.