Two thousand Knights of Malta from all over the world gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica on 24th June, the feast day of their patron saint, St. John the Baptist. A highly significant moment during celebrations of the Order’s Ninth Centenary, solemnly opened last December in Malta in occasion of an international gathering announced by H.M.E.H. the Prince and Grand Master, Fra’ Andrew Bertie.
At the Altar of St. Peter’s Chair, in the apse, the solemn mass was officiated by His Eminence Cardinal Pio Laghi, who has the title and functions of “Cardinalis Patronus” of the Order. Cardinals, Archbishops and Conventual Chaplain con-celebrated the mass. Present were the Grand Master, the Prelate of the Order H.E. Most Rev. Msgr. Donato de Bonis, Titular Bishop of Castello di Numidia.
Present on personal invitation of the Grand Master were, Heads of State and of Government among whom Presidents of Central Africa, Latvia, Republic of Malta, Regent Captains of San Marino, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Bielorussia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Chile, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Guinea, Lithuania, Portugal, Senegal and Hungary, personal representations for President Chirac, Gen. Douin, Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honour, President Ciampi, Vice President Mattarella, Ranieri di Monaco, Prince Alberto, and Head of State of Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Equator, Colombia, Nicaragua, Spain, Austria, Honduras, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand and of Panama, Heads of Mission accredited to the Sovereign Order and numerous representatives of Royal and Imperial Families among whom the Grand Duchess Vladimirova of Russia, King Michele of Romania, Prince of Braganza Dom Duarte, Archduke Sigismondo of Asburgo-Lorena, Duke and Duchess of Calibre. The celebration had its conclusion with an homage to the Holy Father John Paul II, who then addressed his inaugural speech to all Knights who gathered in St. Peter Square immediately after the mass (next chapter).
On this occasion the Grand Magistry notified the nominations of the new Government of the Order for the five-year period 1999-2004 carried out a few days ago by the members of the Chapter General coming from every Continent:
H.E. Ven. Bailiff Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, Grand Commander;
H.E. Amb. Conte Don Carlo Marullo di Condojanni Prince of Casalnuovo, Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion in Obedience, Grand Chancellor;
H.E. Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion in Obedience, Grand Hospitaller;
H.E. Marquis Gian Luca Chiavari, Knight of Honour and Devotion in Obedience, Receiver of the Common Treasure.
H.E. Ven. Bailiff Fra’ Carl E. Paar;
H.E. Comm. Fra’ Carlo Arditi di Castelvetere;
H.E. Knight Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto;
H.E. Knight Fra’ John Alexander MacPherson;
H.E. Richard J. Dunn, Knight of Grace and Devotion in Obedience;
H.E. Jean Pierre Mazery, Knight of Grace and Devotion in Obedience.
The morning of 26 June, H.M.E.H. the Prince and Grand Master, with the Members of the Sovereign Council, made a solemn visit to the Holy Father, received in the Vatican with State honours. After a private conversation in the Holy Father’s study, the Grand Master met in the Apostolic Palace His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State. The Prelate of the Order, H.E. Mgr. Donato de Bonis, and the Order’s Ambassador to the Holy See, H.E. Stefan Falez were also present.
The visit to the Holy Father was preceded by a ceremony in the Magistral Palace for conferring the collar of the Ordine Piano, reserved for Heads of State, brought to him by the deputy Secretary of State, H.E. Mgr. Giovanni Battista Re.