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.
Fra’ Andrew Bertie
His Most Eminent Highness the 78th Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, Fra’ Andrew Bertie, died in Rome on 7 February 2008. The Grand Commander of the Sovereign Order, Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, was sworn in as Lieutenant ad interim of the Order, remaining acting head until the election of a new Grand Master. On 11 March the 79th Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, was elected.
Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was the first Englishman to be elected to the post of Grand Master since 1258. Born 15 May 1929, he was educated at Ampleforth College, Christ Church Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. After having served in the Scots Guards, he worked as a financial journalist in the City of London, before taking up the senior post in Modern Languages (French and Spanish) at Worth School, Sussex. Admitted to the Order in 1956, he took solemn religious vows in 1981 and served on the Sovereign Council (the government of the Order) for the following seven years before being elected Grand Master on 8th April 1988.
His Highness Fra’ Andrew Bertie, who spoke five languages fluently, oversaw many changes in the Order of Malta, instituting a modern approach to the Order’s humanitarian programmes, increasing the membership and extending the possibilities of aid to the poor and the needy in far- flung regions. He augmented from 49 to 100 the number of the Order’s bilateral diplomatic missions, whose delicate task it is to offer assistance to afflicted countries in times of natural disasters or civil conflicts. During his tenure, the Order established relations with many international organisations, including the United Nations. He set up international conferences where members were invited to contribute to the Order’s humanitarian strategies and encouraged a greater commitment to the spiritual side of the Order’s stated mission to help the sick and the poor and to provide an example of living according to Christian principles. In addition, he modernised the internal structure and administration of the Order.
A man of quiet reflection and wide interests, although of a certain British reserve, Fra’ Andrew was much loved by all who worked with him on his many projects. He greatly enjoyed the company of the young, and his former students were often among his visitors to the Magistral Palace in Rome. He always much enjoyed meeting and talking with all those carrying out the good works of the Order, many of whom he met on his travels around the world to visit the Order’s charitable activities and consult with the national Associations involved.
When possible, he spent his holidays at his home in Malta, where he was very involved in organising and teaching judo courses for children as well as tending his farm, whose four different varieties of oranges were a constant source of pride in good weather and anxiety in bad.
That His Most Eminent Highness was held in high regard is evidenced by the many honours bestowed on him. He was made an honorary citizen of Rapallo (1992), of Veroli (1993), Lourdes (1999), Magione (2002), Birgu (2003) and Santa Severina (2003). In Bolivia in 2002 he was created Huesped Ilustre (La Paz, El Alto and Santa Cruz). He held several honorary doctorates: Medicine and Surgery, University of Bologna (1992); Jurisprudence, University of Malta (1993), Humanities, University of Santo Domingo (1995), Universidad Catolica Boliviana San Pablo, Bolivia (2002); Laws, St. John’s University, Minnesota (2003). His Highness was also bestowed: Collar of the Pian Order (Holy See), Collar of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Grand Cross of the Legion d’Honneur, France, and was holder of more than 50 decorations from other countries.
10:00 am: Procession into the Basilica of St. John Lateran of 500 members of the Order
10:15 am: Mass presided over by Cardinal Patronus Raymond Leo Burke and speech by Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing
11:30 am: Opening session of the diocesan inquiry presided over by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini