The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

British Grandmaster of the Knights of Malta on fast-track to sainthood

Tuesday, 24 February 2015, 09:32 Last update: about 6 years ago

A distant cousin of the Queen has become the first head of the 1,000-year-old Knights of Malta chivalric order to be put on a fast-track path to sainthood, The Telegraph reports.

Andrew Bertie, who died in 2008, was the Grandmaster of the Knights of Malta, a charitable order that was founded by a group of warrior monks during the Crusades. As such he held the title 'Fra', as in 'frater' or brother.

At a Mass in the Basilica of St John in Lateran in Rome, the former Scots Guards officer was formally placed on the road to sainthood.

The ceremony, attended by 1,300 people from around the world, took place last Friday.

It is the first time in the 1,000-year history of the Knights of Malta that one of its Grandmasters has been considered as a candidate for sainthood.

The life and religious works of Fra' Andrew will now be studied by Vatican officials, who will need to attribute two miracles to him – the first for him to be beatified and the second for him to be canonised, or granted sainthood, the newspaper reported.

Those miracles, if and when they are identified, may be connected to his frequent visits to Lourdes in the company of the sick.

Under canon law, a request for a person to be made a saint can only be made at least five years after their death.

The request for the Briton to be canonised was made almost as soon as that period had elapsed, suggesting he will be put on a fast-track to sainthood.

"The timing was quite exceptional because exactly five years had passed from his death when he was first proposed as a candidate," said Marianna Balfour from the Catholic order, which is officially known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta.

The Knights of Malta received recognition from the Vatican more than 900 years ago, with a 'bull' or decree issued by Pope Paschal II in 1113, in the midst of the crusades.

After the crusaders' attempts to take Jerusalem failed, the Knights were forced to move to Cyprus, then to Rhodes for 200 years, and finally to Malta, which they ruled as an independent sovereign state for three centuries.

Napoleon expelled the order from the Mediterranean island in 1798. It was eventually re-established in Rome as a sovereign entity – a state without any territory.

The order's 98,000 members and volunteers long ago swapped chain mail and tunics for doctor's coats and emergency worker overalls.

They provide humanitarian help in war zones, earthquakes and floods around the world, from Congo and Rwanda to Haiti and Afghanistan.

They are increasingly working in austerity-hit Europe, opening soup kitchens, shelters and clinics to help the poor.



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