For the first time in the modern era canonization has been proposed for a Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta
The opening session of the diocesan inquiry into the Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Fra’ Andrew Bertie, 78th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, will take place on 20 February at 11.30 in the Rome Vicariate at St. John Lateran. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of his Holiness for the Diocese of Rome, will preside over the solemn act. The hearing will be preceded by a Holy Mass celebrated in the Basilica of St. John Lateran by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Cardinalis Patronus of the Sovereign Order of Malta. This historic event will be attended by the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing, accompanied by the Sovereign Council, the relatives of the late Grand Master and the heads of the Order of Malta’s Grand Priories and National Associations from the five continents. Some three hundred faithful are expected from Germany alone.
A man with an intense spiritual life and profoundly convinced of the need to continuously strengthen the international solidarity network, Andrew Bertie was admitted to the Order when he was only 27 and devoted his life to prayer and charitable works, honouring the task entrusted to him until his death after illness in February 2008. Fra’ Andre Bertie oversaw great changes within the Order of Malta such as the expansion of the humanitarian activities and the reform of the constitutional charter. His legacy also includes a renewed emphasis on the spiritual life of the members of the Order. Furthermore, during his magistery, the Order’s bilateral diplomatic relations rose from 49 to 100.
In office from 1988 to 2008, Grand Master Andrew Bertie’s life was always inspired by principles of faith. His profound spiritual and human virtues, and not least his commitment to practise the Order of Malta’s founding motto “witnessing the faith and assistance to the poor” (Tuitio Fidei, Obsequium Pauperum), meant that in February 2013, only five years after his death (the minimum term envisaged by canon law) the request to initiate the procedure for his Beatification and Canonization was presented. This was a significant anniversary, because in that year the Order of Malta celebrated the 900th anniversary of its official recognition by Pope Paschal II.
The work Fra’ Andrew Bertie performed during his lifetime was for many an example of moral integrity and spiritual inspiration, hence his many faithful followers both in Italy and abroad, and in particular in those countries where the Order of Malta is present with its humanitarian activities.
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The Grand Master sends a message to the Holy Father to renew the Order of Malta’s adherence to the papal magisterium
Some 1,300 came to Rome from all over the world to participate this morning in the mass and opening of the diocesan inquiry on the Cause of Beatification and Canonisation of the Servant of God Fra’ Andrew Bertie. A very significant event for the Order of Malta, as it is the first time in its millenary history that a Grand Master has been proposed for sainthood.
Accompanied by a pale, almost springlike sun, the ceremony began with a procession inside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the first of the four papal basilicas of Rome and the oldest in the West. Members in religious habit and volunteers, filed along the nave of the Basilica to take their places for the celebration of Holy Mass, officiated by the Cardinalis Patronus of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.
The relatives of the late Grand Master – his brother and family – were present with many friends and faithful followers for whom he was a humane and spiritual guide, as well as the entire Sovereign Council, many presidents of the Order’s Associations worldwide and ambassadors of the accredited diplomatic corps.
“You’ve arrived from 35 different countries to join us in expressing our affection and our great respect for an exceptional man of profound spirituality and I would like to thank you all,” said Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing in his official speech. “It is a mark of special devotion towards this Grand Master, so beloved by the Order and by each of you individually. A valid testament to vox populi“.
In his address, Fra’ Matthew Festing recalled the intense spiritual life and great love of learning that had always motivated Fra’ Andrew Bertie, brilliant student of the United Kingdom’s best schools and universities, a multilingual journalist and later a literature professor. “But it was above all his dedication to the service of God and to the poor and the sick that illuminated his path,” said the Grand Master, describing his predecessor as a “reformer” and a “modernizer” and recalling Fra’ Andrew Bertie’s constant commitment to involving young people in the life of the Order.
During his mastership from 1988 to 2008 Fra’ Andrew Bertie oversaw great changes in the life of the Order, from the development of its humanitarian work to the reform of the constitutional charter. His legacy also includes a new emphasis on the spiritual life of the Order’s members. These are the reasons why the request for initiating the procedure for his beatification and canonization was presented only five years after his death – the minimum term specified by canon law.
The formal opening of the inquiry was presided over by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome. The process will now continue in camera. Given the number of devoted present the official opening of the process for beatification took place in the Basilica instead of the Vicariate’s Palace. This has only ever happened once before when the process for the beatification of John Paul II was opened.
The Grand Master’s message to Pope Francis
On this important occasion, Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing sent a message to Pope Francis to express the Order of Malta’s profound and sincere adherence to the Holy Father’s magisterium, stressing his guidance and the encouragement for an “increasingly intense realization of Obsequium Pauperum for our poor and marginalised brothers”.
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