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Order of Malta Australia


Vale Fra’ Richard Divall AO OBE


Wednesday 25 January 2017

Rebecca Comini. Media and Communications Office – article from
Fra’ Richard Divall AO OBE—conductor, composer, musicologist and Professed Knight of the Order of Malta—was laid to rest today, following his death from cancer on 15 January, aged 71.
Fra’ Richard was one of a small group of Professed Knights of Malta, who take solemn religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and was the sole Australian Professed Knight.
A large crowd, including many members of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (Order of Malta), gathered in St Patrick’s Cathedral for the Requiem Mass.
Bishop Terence Curtin was the Principal Celebrant of the Mass, which was concelebrated by: Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge; the Order of Malta’s magisterial chaplains Very Rev. Dr Brian Boyle, Very Rev. Peter L’Estrange SJ and Fr Gerald O’Collins; Fr William Uren SJ; Mgr Franco Cavarra; Fr Chris Wilcock SJ; and Fr Brendan Byrne SJ.
Born in Sydney on 9 September 1945, music and Malta were Richard Divall’s passions. He became the first music director of the Victoria State Opera at the age of 26 until the organisation merged with Opera Australia in 1996. He was principal resident conductor of Opera Australia.
Homilist Fr Gerald O’Collins said Fra’ Richard was ‘a blessing to so many institutions and individuals’ including the Australian String Quartet, Opera Victoria, the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras, as well as the University of Melbourne’s Queens College and Newman College.
Fr O’Collins said Fra’ Richard could be found on the streets of Melbourne every winter, ‘talking to the homeless and then bringing them thick coats to keep them warm’, as part of the Order of Malta’s coats for the homeless program. He also visited the sick and the aged in retirement homes and centres, before his own illness prevented him from doing so.
Sir James Gobbo, former Governor of Victoria, fellow Knight of Malta and close friend of Fra’ Richard, offered words of remembrance. He said that in the 1970s, Richard was already a keen observer and researcher of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.

In 1982 Sir James invited Richard to give an oration to the Australian National Assembly of the Order of Malta on the order’s history. This proved to be a pivotal moment for Richard, who started taking instruction in the Catholic faith.
Richard was received into the Church at St Patrick’s Cathedral on 7 November 1989, soon after joining the Order of St John and then taking his solemn vows as a Professed Knight at the age of 63.
He was awarded honorary doctorates by Monash University and Australian Catholic University. In 2014, Fr Richard was awarded a rare High Distinction for his Doctorate in 18th century sacred music, undertaken at Melbourne’s Catholic Theological College, part of the University.
Befitting for the funeral of a man of music, Orchestra Victoria with friends and colleagues provided the music for the Mass.
In his final words, Sir James described Fra’ Richard’s final moments, surrounded by many loving friends.
‘A small group of Carmelite sisters quite exceptionally left their nearby monastery of prayer and contemplation and came to his bedside. They then sang the beautiful and moving hymn, Salve Regina. The minute the sisters had just withdrawn and were not even off the premises when Richard breathed his last. Richard the maestro had brilliantly orchestrated the final fall of the curtain.’
Vale Fra’ Richard Divall AO OBE.

The Australian Association

The Australian Association, formed in 1974, currently has in excess of 300 members and aspirant members across every State and Territory of Australia. We also have ongoing and strong links with the Order’s National Associations throughout the Asia Pacific Region including in Singapore and the Philippines and with members of the Order in New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Thailand and Korea. The Order of Malta is committed to serving Our Lords the Poor and Sick worldwide and has done so for over 900 years. This website shares with you the history, mission and current activities of the Order of Malta in Australia, and provides links to the work of the Order world-wide.