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Leader tapped to reform Order of Malta dies unexpectedly

Fra' Marco Luzzago, Lieutenant du Grand Maître de l'Ordre de Malte

Order of Malta

I.Media for Aleteia - published on 06/07/22

Fra’ Marco Luzzago, head of the Sovereign Order of Malta since 2020, passed away suddenly on June 7 at the age of 72.

Fra’ Marco Luzzago, Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, suddenly passed away at the Commandery of Villa Ciccolini in Italy, the State of the Order of Malta announced in a statement on June 7, 2022. Aged 72, he had been elected to head the Order on November 8, 2020 and had been given the task of accompanying the reform of the organization wanted by Pope Francis

The Grand Commander, Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas-Boas, will therefore assume the duties of Acting Lieutenant – for the second time after the 2020 vacancy – and will remain at the head of the Sovereign Order of Malta until the election of the new head by the Council, the Grand Magistry said.

Born in Brescia in 1950, Fra’ Marco Luzzago was a relative of Pope Paul VI.  He had studied medicine for several years at the universities of Padua and Parma after a bachelor’s degree with the Franciscan friars, and then managed family businesses. He joined the Order in 1975 as a member of the Grand Priory of Lombardy and Venice, where he took his final vows in 2003. Since 2010, he has dedicated his life to this institution.

At the head of a proven Order

The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta, known as the “Order of Malta”, elected Fra’ Marco Luzzago in November 2020 to succeed Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempo di Sanguinetto, Grand Master, who died on April 29. As the Grand Master’s lieutenant, he was to remain in charge of the Order for only one year but with the same powers as a Grand Master.

Fra’ Marco Luzzago had arrived at the top of the hierarchy in a delicate context, while the Hospitaller Order was shaken by a serious crisis following several scandals revealed in 2016-2018. The ancient Catholic order of chivalry is also in the grip of a power struggle between a fringe of the organization wishing to maintain its religious orientation and another wishing to accentuate its secularization and NGO status.

This internal crisis was coupled with a Vatican crisis with the banishment of Cardinal Raymond Burke in 2016, until then Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Personally taking the order in hand, Pope Francis had sent the then Substitute of the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, to revise its Constitution.

After the death of the Grand Master combined with the disgrace of Cardinal Becciu in 2020, the Argentine pontiff appointed a delegate general in the person of Cardinal Silvano Tomasi, with full powers to continue the reform. The implementation of the reform continues to become more complex with this new unexpected death – even though, according to several Vatican sources, the special delegate is also ill.

An organization present throughout the world

The history of the Order of Malta began in the Holy Land in 1048 with the founding of the religious community of the Hospitallers of St. John. A religious and lay Order of the Catholic Church since 1113 and a subject of international law, it maintains diplomatic relations with more than one hundred States, as well as with the European Union and enjoys permanent observer status at the United Nations.

Present in 120 countries, the Order helps people in need through medical, social and humanitarian activities. On its website, the Order explains that it is composed of more than 13,500 Knights, Dames and Chaplains. Some 80,000 permanent volunteers work alongside them, as well as 42,000 employees, mostly medical personnel.

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