Pope Francis extends mandate of special delegate to Knights of Malta

Archbishop Giovanni Becciu substitute of the Secretariat of State aboard the papal flight to Colombo Jan 12 2015 Credit Alan Holdren CNA Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, substitute of the Secretariat of State, aboard the papal flight to Colombo, Jan. 12, 2015. | Alan Holdren/CNA.

Fifteen months after appointing Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu as his personal envoy to the Knights of Malta, Pope Francis extended the original mandate, requesting that the bishop stay in the post until the order has concluded its reform.

In a letter published May 4, Pope Francis thanked Becciu for his work, particularly in "meeting and listening attentively" to members of the order; and asked him to continue being the pope's "spokesperson" regarding relations between the Knights and the Holy See.

Pope Francis named Archbishop Becciu, substitute of the Secretariat of State since 2011, his personal delegate to oversee the "spiritual and moral" reform of the Order of Malta, with particular attention to the professed members, in February 2017.

Becciu's position as Special Delegate was intended to conclude with the election of the Knight's new Grand Master, which took place May 2 with the election of Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre, but Francis has chosen to extend the mandate indefinitely.

"In consideration of the fact that the path of spiritual and juridical renewal" of the Order of Malta has not concluded, "I ask you to continue to carry out the office of my Delegate until the conclusion of the process of reform," the pope wrote.

Newly-elected Grand Master Dalla Torre had been interim grand master since April 2017. His appointment to that position was part of ongoing reform of leadership after the Knights' former grand master, Matthew Festing, resigned on Jan. 24, 2017.

The resignation marked the end of a month-long back and forth between the Order of Malta and the Holy See, beginning with the forced dismissal of Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager from both his position, and his membership in the order, in early December 2016, though he was later reinstated.

According to a statement from the order May 2, the new Grand Master will be responsible for continuing reforms of the group's constitution, which began in 2017, "to adapt it to the development that the Order has experienced in recent decades."

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a Catholic lay religious order originally founded as the Knights Hospitaller around 1099 in Jerusalem. Now based in Rome, it is present in 120 countries with over 2,000 projects in the medical-social field and more than 120,000 volunteers and medical staff.

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