The grand master is the sovereign and religious head of the Order of Malta vested with the authority to conduct diplomatic relations, ratify international agreements, and to issue legislative measures along with the Sovereign Council.
As grand master, Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto made state visits to Cameroon, Benin, Germany, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and other countries. He visited medical staff and patients in the order's healthcare facilities during each of these trips, according to a press statement by the order.
He cared for the poor by serving weekly at soup kitchens in Rome's railway stations and participating in the order's International Summer Camps for Young Disabled. For over forty years, he was active in the order's pilgrimages to Loreto, Assisi, Lourdes, and other international locations.
Born in Rome in 1944, Dalla Torre, studied literature and philosophy at Sapienza University of Rome, specializing in Christian archaeology and art history.
He taught courses in Classic Greek at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome and has served as head of the university's library and chief archivist for important collections.
"His knowledge of history - medieval, and especially the history of the Order of Malta - was extensive. He was of course very up to date with world affairs too. But his great passion was music, about which he was very knowledgeable," Leslie said.
Dalla Torre entered the Order of Malta in 1985 and made his solemn vows as a professed knight in 1993. From 1994-1999 he served as grand prior of Lombardy and Venice, and from 1999-2004 was a member of the Sovereign Council.
In 2004, he was elected grand commander, and after the death of the 78th grand master, Fra' Andrew Bertie, he stood in as interim lieutenant. He served as grand prior of Rome from 2008 to 2017.
Dalla Torre was appointed interim grand master April 29, 2017, after the resignation of Matthew Festing, which marked the end of a month-long back and forth between the Order of Malta and the Holy See, beginning with the dismissal of Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager from both his position, and his membership in the order, in early December 2016.
Boeselager had been dismissed because of allegations that under his tenure the order's charity branch had inadvertently been involved in distributing condoms in Burma to prevent the spread of HIV. Boeselager, whose brother Georg von Boeselager was appointed a member of the Board of Superintendents of the IOR in 2016, was reinstated after Festing was asked to resign by Pope Francis.
The death of the Order of Malta's Grand Master comes as the organization continues its reform.
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This report has been updated to include the pope's message of condolence.