Order of Malta: Cardinal Ghirlanda Named “Patronus”

Source: FSSPX News

Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda

The Holy See announced on June 19, 2023 the appointment of Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a Jesuit and canonist, as the new cardinal patronus (protector) of the Order of Malta. Aged 80, he succeeds American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke who had officially held this position since 2014, but had lost most of his prerogatives since 2017.

The Pope thus called on the person he had appointed to investigate dysfunctions within the government of the Order of Malta, then to rewrite its Constitutional Charter.

The Italian Jesuit, who was rector of the Gregorian from 2004 to 2010, is considered one of the main advisers of Pope Francis for the drafting of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, Prædicate Evangelium, which entered into force on June 5, 2022. He was created cardinal a few weeks later, without being an elector, since he passed the threshold of 80 years on July 5 last.

The choice of a very close and very old collaborator, who begins his mandate at almost 81 years of age, seems to show Pope Francis’ will to keep control over this powerful organization, counting more than 13,500 knights, ladies and chaplains, 42,000 employees and 80,000 volunteers, active in 120 countries.

American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, after being called to Rome by Benedict XVI as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, was named Cardinal Patron of the Order of Malta by Francis in 2014.

However, in 2017, the American cardinal, officially patron of the Order of Malta, had lost his prerogatives in favor of a “personal delegate” responsible for the “spiritual and moral renewal of the Order.”

Bishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, then substitute for the Secretariat of State, received this mission in April 2017 and exercised it until the loss of his prerogatives in the fall of 2020, because of the London building affair.

Likewise, the new Grand Master of the Order of Malta, John Dunlap, a 66-year-old Canadian, was elected Grand Master on May 3, becoming the first non-European elected to this position. He had been acting head of the Order of Malta since 2022 as a lieutenant.

John Dunlap, a specialist in corporate law and immigration law, has long been legal adviser to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York.