ROME (CNS) — The new lieutenant of the grand master of the Knights of Malta will lead efforts to reform the order following a tumultuous period that brought to light many of the ancient institution’s internal disputes.
Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre, elected April 29 to lead the Knights of Malta for a one-year period, will work on a constitutional reform that “will address potential institutional weaknesses,” the order said in a press release following the election.
“The recent crisis has shown some weaknesses in the checks and balances in governance,” it said. “The reform will take this into consideration.”
Born in Rome, Dalla Torre has been a member of the order since 1985 and held several prominent roles in the order’s hierarchy. Following the death of the 78th grand master, Fra’ Andrew Bertie, he served as lieutenant ad interim prior to the election of Fra’ Matthew Festing.
Dalla Torre’s election closes a difficult chapter in the order’s history and tensions that lead to Festing’s resignation Jan. 24 at the behest of Pope Francis, who had established a commission to investigate his removal of the order’s grand chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.
Festing refused to cooperate with the investigation and insisted the firing was a sovereign act outside the Vatican’s jurisdiction, although the knights take a vow of obedience to the pope.
Although Boeselager was reinstated as grand chancellor, the public spat drew unwanted attention to internal disputes rather than to the order’s priorities of providing humanitarian relief, encouraging dialogue and assisting migrants and refugees.
The Knights of Malta have 13,500 members, as well as 80,000 volunteers and 25,000 medical professionals providing relief and humanitarian aid in 120 countries.
Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, current grand hospitaller of the order, said the crisis “has been troublesome for our donors,” many of whom “decided maybe not to help us anymore because they thought we were fighting against the pope, which is not true.”
“So now we have to restore this trust,” he said Feb. 2 following Boeselager’s reinstatement.
The reform now led by Dalla Torre, the Knights of Malta said, will “also focus on strengthening the order’s spiritual life” and on efforts to increase the number of its professed members.
“Consultations have already begun and all members of the order have been invited to offer their suggestions,” the order said.