By unilaterally and suddenly appointing a new Lieutenant of the Grand Master, Pope Francis demonstrates his desire to bring about the reform of the Order of Malta as quickly as possible, against which some of the knights protest.
The papal decision to appoint, without going through the knights, a new Lieutenant of the Grand Master on June 13, 2022, the day before the funeral of Fra' Marco Lugazzo, who held this position until his premature death on June 7, has the look of a blitzkrieg.
A procedure that the Argentine pontiff fully assumes due to the circumstances according to the letter signed by his hand: “Unfortunately, new events and circumstances seem almost to want to prevent the Order of St. John the Baptist from making the necessary path of renewal in fidelity to the original charism. Indeed, the premature death of Lieutenant of Grand Master Fra’ Marco Luzzago, in addition to causing the temporary arrest of the reform process, risks further accentuating the tensions that still exist.”
A decision which illustrates the standoff between Rome and the German wing of the knights, represented by the current Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Von Boeselager: they take a dim view of the reform of the Order piloted directly from St. Martha’s House.
Because by affecting the sovereignty of the Order, the reform would consequently reduce the influence of the German knights, an influence as preponderant as it is discreet, for the last 20 years.
Albrecht Von Boeselager had also seen the spotlight shine on him in 2016, when the former Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing, with the support of Cardinal Raymond Burke, then protector of the Order, wanted to remove him from his position, because he had organized the distribution of condoms in war zones, as part of his duties.
The Grand Chancellor, strongly supported by the Vatican, succeeded in turning the situation around and making the Grand Master resign. It is whispered that Fra' Matthew Festing had above all had the imprudence to investigate a bequest of 130 million euros from an unknown French knight - Jehan du Tour, a pseudonym, it seems - whose origin was not very licit.
After the German Chancellor’s victory and the resignation of the Grand Master, the investigation into the famous legacy fell into oblivion, but the spoils had not been lost for everyone.
In any case, by imposing Fra’ John Dunlap – an internationally renowned jurist – as Lieutenant of the Grand Master, Pope Francis probably intends to catch unawares the opponents of a reform that will have to take place “in spite of any norm or provision of law… which might be contrary to my decision,” according to the terms of the papal writ. A not really surprising “whatever it costs” attitude coming from the Argentine pontiff.
Since it is necessary to move quickly, and not give the German knights time to reverse the situation, the new lieutenant took the oath in the presence of the special delegate of the sovereign pontiff, Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, immediately after the funeral of his predecessor, on June 14th.
His main task will be to adopt the Constitution aimed at reforming the Order of Malta, and to prepare for the election of a new Grand Master, a post which has remained vacant since the death of Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, in 2020.