The death is announced of HMEH 78th Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta, Fra’ Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie, in Rome on 7 February 2008. The Grand Commander of the Order of Malta, Baillif Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, has been sworn in as Lieutenant ad interim of the Order, and remains acting head of the Sovereign Order until a new Grand Master is elected.
Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was the second Englishman to be elected to the post of Grand Master in the Order’s 900-year history. Born 15 May 1929, he was educated at Ampleforth College, Christ Church Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. After military service in the Scots Guards, he worked as a financial journalist in the City of London, before taking up the senior post in Modern Languages (French and Spanish) at Worth School, Sussex. Admitted to the Order in 1956, he took solemn religious vows in 1981 and served on the Sovereign Council (the government of the Order) for the following seven years before being elected Grand Master on 8th April 1988.
His Highness Fra’ Andrew Bertie, who spoke five languages fluently, oversaw many changes in the Order of Malta, instituting a modern approach to the Order’s humanitarian programmes, increasing the membership and extending the possibilities of aid to the poor and the needy in far-flung regions. He augmented from 49 to 100 the number of the Order’s bilateral diplomatic mission, whose delicate mission it is also to offer assistance to afflicted countries in times of natural disasters or armed conflicts. He set up international conferences where members were invited to contribute to the Order’s humanitarian strategies and encouraged a greater commitment to the spiritual side of the Order’s stated mission to help the sick and the poor and to provide an example of living according to Christian principles. In addition, he modernised the internal structure and administration of the Order.
A man of quiet reflection and wide interests, although of a certain British reserve, Fra’ Andrew was much loved by all who worked with him on his many projects. He greatly enjoyed the company of the young, and his former students were often among his visitors to the Magistral Palace in Rome. He always much enjoyed meeting and talking with all those involved in the good works of the Order, many of whom he met on his travels around the world to visit the Order’s charitable activities and consult with the national associations involved. When possible, he spent his holidays at his home in Malta, where he was very involved in organising and teaching judo courses for children as well as tending his farm, whose four different varieties of oranges were a constant source of pride in good weather and anxiety in bad.
That His Most Eminent Highness was held in high regard is evidenced by the many honours bestowed on him:
he was made an honorary citizen of Rapallo (1992), of Veroli (1993), Lourdes (1999), Magione (2002), Birgu (2003) and Santa Severina (2003). In Bolivia in 2002 he was created Huesped Ilustre (La Paz, El Alto and Santa Cruz).
Path to Peace Award 2005, Matteo Ricci Award 2006
Honorary doctorates: Medicine and surgery, University of Bologna (1992); Jurisprudence, University of Malta (1993), Humanities, University of Santo Domingo (1995), Universidad Catolica Boliviana San Pablo, Bolivia (2002); Laws, St. John’s University, Minnesota (2003).
His Highness was also bestowed: Collar of the Order Piano (Holy See), Collar of the Italian Republic, Grand Cross of the Legion d’Honneur, and was holder of more than 50 decorations from other countries.