Electing a Grand Master: Who, where and what next
The Council Complete of State of the Sovereign Order of Malta held in Rome on 29 April 2017 elected Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto as Lieutenant of the Grand Master. With the same powers of a Grand Master, the Lieutenant of the Grand Master remains in charge for one year.
As that year ended, on 2-3 May 2018 the Council Complete of State convened in Rome to elect a Grand Master (the eightieth since its foundation more than 900 years ago) or a Lieutenant of the Grand Master.
The outcome of on the Council Complete of State was to elect Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto as the 80th Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta – a position he will hold for life.
The Council Complete of State
In accordance with the Sovereign Order of Malta’s Constitution (Article 23), the Council Complete of State is tasked with electing a Grand Master (for life) or a Lieutenant of the Grand Master (with the same powers as the Grand Master but in charge for one year). The Council has no other assignments.
The 2018 Council Complete of State comprised of 57 electors:
– Lieutenant of the Grand Master (1);
– Members of the Sovereign Council (10);
– Prelate (1);
– Grand Priors and Procurators of Grand Priories (6);
– Professed Bailiffs (7);
– Professed Knights representing the Grand Priories (10);
– Professed Knight and Knight in Obedience elected by the Knights in gremio religionis1 (2);
– Regents of the Subpriories (5);
– Presidents of the National Associations (15).
On 11 February 2018, the Presidents of the National Associations met in Rome to vote for their 15 representatives. For the first time in the history of the Order of Malta two women, Presidents of Associations, including one from Asia, will take part in the Council Complete of State.
Who was eligible
As stated in Article?13 of the Sovereign Order of Malta’s Constitution: ‘The Grand Master is elected for life by the Council Complete of State from among the Professed Knights with at least ten years in solemn vows if they are younger than fifty years of age; in the case of Professed Knights who are older, but who have been members of the Order for at least ten years, three years in solemn vows are sufficient.’
To serve as Grand Master a candidate must also satisfy the nobiliary requirements prescribed by the Order for the Knights of Honour and Devotion.
There were 12 eligible candidates.
The requisites for the Lieutenant of the Grand Master are the same as those prescribed for Grand Master.
The Professed Knights that took part in the Council Complete of State convened at the Magistral Villa on the afternoon of 1 May. They had the right to propose three candidates to the Council Complete of State, the so-called ‘terna’.
The Council Complete of State commenced on 2 May 2018 with Mass celebrated by the Prelate of the Order of Malta, Mons.Jean Laffitte, in the church of Santa Maria in Aventino. After the Mass, the 57 electors processed to the Chapter Room on the top floor of the Magistral Villa, where the voting took place on a secret ballot. For a Grand Master to be elected, he must receive the majority, plus one, of the votes cast.
If the ‘terna’ is presented and a candidate is not elected from the ‘terna’ in the first three ballots, all voting members have freedom of choice in successive ballots amongst the 12 eligible Professed Knights.
After the election
The candidate elected to the office of Grand Master, or Lieutenant of the Grand Master, must acknowledge his acceptance or refusal of the office immediately (Article 191 of the Code of the Order).
Shortly thereafter, the election is communicated by letter to the Pope by the elected candidate.
After a candidate is elected, the next morning the Grand Master (or Lieutenant of the Grand Master) takes an oath in a solemn session of the Council Complete of State, in the presence of the Pope’s Special Delegate, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu. Mass is then be celebrated in the Order’s church, Santa Maria in Aventino. If the election concludes on 3 May, the solemn oath session will take place in the afternoon of the same day.
Closing of the Council Complete of State
With the oath taken by the newly elected Head of the Order, the Council Complete of State is dissolved (article 194 of the Code of the Order).
First official engagement
The first official engagement of the Grand Master (or the Lieutenant of the Grand Master) will be the 60th Order of Malta International Pilgrimage to Lourdes, from 4 to 8 May. Every year, over 7,000 members and volunteers from all over the world take part in the pilgrimage, including around 1,500 sick and disabled pilgrims whom they assist and accompany throughout the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage to Lourdes represents one of the most significant moments in the spiritual life of the Order’s members and volunteers.
The Grand Master
According to the Constitution, as the religious Superior and Sovereign, the Grand Master must fully dedicate himself to the development of the works of the Order and set an example of living by Christian principles to all the members of the Order. He is vested with supreme authorities.
Together with the Sovereign Council, the Grand Master issues the legislative measures not covered by the Constitution, promulgates government acts, manages the financial assets, ratifies international agreements and the summoning of the Chapter General. The States with which the Order has diplomatic relations recognise the Grand Master with the prerogatives, immunities and honours reserved for Heads of State. The Grand Master resides at the Order’s seat of government, the Magistral Palace in Rome.
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