Englishman Is New Grand Master of Malta

LONDON, MARCH 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Military Order of Malta has elected Englishman Fra Matthew Festing to be its 79th grand master.

Festing, 58, was elected today by the Council Complete of State — the order’s electoral body. He succeeds Fra Andrew Bertie, who died in February. Bertie served as the 78th grand master from 1988 to 2008.

In accepting the role, the new grand master swore his oath before the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi, and the electoral body.

The Order of Malta said in a press statement that the new grand master affirmed his resolve to “continue the great work carried out by his predecessor.”

Festing has served as the grand prior of England since the priory’s re-establishment in 1993, restored after an abeyance of 450 years.

In this capacity he led missions of humanitarian aid to Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia after the recent disturbances in those countries, and with a large delegation from Britain he attends the order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes with handicapped pilgrims.

Festing became a member of the Order of Malta in 1977, and took his solemn religious vows in 1991.

The origins of the Order of Malta, an international hospitaller and relief organization, date back to 1050, when it was founded as a fraternity at the service of St. John´s Hospital in Jerusalem.