After the many difficulties experienced in recent years within the government of the Order of Malta, the reform desired by Pope Francis and undertaken under the aegis of his special delegate, Cardinal Silvano Tomasi, is beginning to take shape.
The outlines of this reform were revealed by Cardinal Tomasi, in an interview given at a meeting of the professed on June 9, 2021 and published on the Order's international website.
The Order has stated that it is engaged in “a spiritual renewal process” and is also working on “the updating of the Constitutional Charter and the Code, the aspects that will affect the life of the religious and the complementarity of all members in the pursuing the charism of the Order: serving the sick and the poor and the example of a consistent Christian life.”
The cardinal, for his part, explained that the “current renewal is to protect and strengthen the Order of Malta’s originality and identity as a secular religious order,” which includes the vows of religion. The renewal aims to lead “ the Professed to a commitment that is more integrated in the Order’s works,” to be engaged full-time in the Order’s activities . . . and not only part-time as occurs today when they have to earn a living in secular employment.”
This religious life should allow them to live in community and be supported economically by the Order, while observing the vow of poverty.
On November 8, the “full” Council of State did not elect the Grand Master, but a Lieutenant of the Grand Master. The latter has the same powers, but is limited to a term of one year. One of the explanations was the lack of candidates.
Indeed, the current conditions, which require that the Grand Master be drawn from the nobility, limits the number of candidates. The new constitution provides for the abolition of this nobiliary condition to expand the number of qualifying candidates.
This suppression is seen by some as an abandonment, but appears to be more or less necessary for the survival of the Order.
Finally, because the religious aspect will be strengthened, it is planned to give a more advanced formation, both at the spiritual and doctrinal level, to future professed.
It seems that this development was more or less inevitable. If the Order wants to be more abundant in recruiting new members, and if it wants to be able to count on forces fully delivered to its service, a renewal of religious life that would be a return to its origins appears appropriate.