Pope Francis mourns Order of Malta leader Fra’ Marco Luzzago

Pope Francis meets with the Order of Malta's Fra' Marco Luzzago on June 25, 2021 Pope Francis meets with the Order of Malta's Fra' Marco Luzzago on June 25, 2021. | Vatican Media

In a condolence message on Wednesday, Pope Francis praised the “luminous Christian witness” of Order of Malta leader Fra’ Marco Luzzago.

Luzzago, who had overseen the 1,000-year-old institution since 2020, died on June 7 after a sudden illness.

The pope offered his condolences in a telegram to Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the pope’s special delegate to the Order of Malta.

The telegram said: “Spiritually sharing in the grief at the sudden passing of His Excellency Fra’ Marco Luzzago, Lieutenant of the Grand Master, I wish to offer my condolences to his family and to the entire order and, in remembering his commitment generously lavished in the performance of his high office in the service of this institution, as well as his love for the Church and luminous Christian witness, I invoke eternal peace for him and from my heart impart my blessing to you ... to the interim Lieutenant Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas-Boas, to the Grand Magistry, and to all the members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.”

Luzzago died at the age of 71 at Villa Ciccolini in the Italian province of Macerata.

The Italian medical doctor, who was related to Pope Paul VI, was elected as Lieutenant of the Grand Master on Nov. 8, 2020.

He was expected to serve for a one-year term ahead of the election of a new Grand Master of the order, a position traditionally held for life.

But his term was extended by Pope Francis amid a push to conclude a years-long process of constitutional reform.

Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas-Boas, the order’s Grand Commander since 2019, will oversee the organization until the election of a new leader.

The order announced on June 9 that Fra’ Marco Luzzago will lie in state on June 10-13 at the Church of Santa Maria in Aventino, in its Magistral Villa complex in Rome.

His funeral will take place on June 14 in the Basilica dei Santi Bonifacio ed Alessio in Rome at 11 a.m. local time. It will be live-streamed on the order’s YouTube channel.

This report was updated at 11:08 MDT with the details of Fra’ Marco Luzzago’s funeral.

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