In two separate interviews with the Vatican Radio, the Grand Chancellor of the Sovereign Order of Malta commented on the recent Council Complete of State which elected Fra’ Marco Luzzago as Lieutenant of the Grand Master, paving the way to the extraordinary Chapter General next year needed to implement the reformed Constitution. Albrecht Boeselager also illustrated how the Order of Malta is handling the challenges posed by the Covid 19 pandemic to respond to the needs of the people affected around the globe.
“By electing a Lieutenant of the Grand Master, we can return to a proper administration. Under an interim governor, extraordinary measures- including financial ones- are not possible. So, the election was important in order to get back to the routine of administration and governance”. The Grand Chancellor also stated that as a result of the appointment of Cardinal Silvano Tomasi as the Pope’s Special Delegate to the Order: “We will be able to make rapid progress with the reform”.
Cardinal -elect Tomasi, Boeselager further explained, knows the Order well, and is familiar with the issues that will be discussed when the statutes are revised. “I am therefore confident that things are now moving forward rapidly” Boeselager conceded, adding that the goal is to hold a Chapter General in the middle of next year to decide on the necessary reforms for the Constitution and Code, “if the pandemic allows”.
The Grand Chancellor then expanded on the significant effort put in place by the many associations, relief, and volunteer corps of the Order of Malta in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. “All services in direct contact with people had to be converted, such as meals for the homeless, care for migrants, or visiting services for old or disabled people at home. This presents us with major challenges everywhere. But it is gratifying to see how much imagination, commitment, and energy is being put into it” Boeselager explained. “New telephone services have been introduced; food distribution points for the homeless where transmission of the virus can be ruled out, have been created”. Also, the Doctor to Doctor initiative which was launched last Spring by the Order of Malta is proving an effective tool whereby doctors and health experts from different countries meet on an online platform to discuss medical research and finding in the treatment of Covid 19.
The Grand Chancellor emphasized the danger posed by the pandemic which could lead to a greater disparity between the wealthy and the poor. “Those who have a house with a garden are less affected by a lockdown than those who live with four children in a three- or four-room flat. And parents with a very good school education are better able to help their children at home to cope with a school drop-out than those who do not have one. This is a major concern.”
Speaking to the journalists, Boeselager expressed his concern about the situation in Africa. “Even if the pandemic is not as virulent, the preventive measures have serious consequences: For example, schools are closed and school meals for children are no longer possible. This poses a great threat to the health of the children whose only meal a day is often provided by the schools”.
The Order’s involvement in the Middle East continues despite the political instability in the region, the Grand Chancellor explained. “Especially in Lebanon we have intensified our work after the explosion in the port of Beirut: additional medical aid is being offered and mobile clinics are in operation. A new project is just starting to help small agricultural businesses whereby we support their business and formation and in return they give 10% of the harvest for programs of the Order, to feed the poor.”
“Also, in Iraq, the Order of Malta’s projects continue, these consisting mainly in the resettlement in the Nineveh plain of Christian and Yezidi families who had fled from the terrorist group “Islamic State” in summer 2014”.
As far as Syria is concerned, the Order of Malta continues to provide aid “under very, very difficult conditions”. As Boeselager noted, the main condition for a return of refugees to Syria – as mentioned by them -would be “a change in the political system or the political leadership”: “Most refugees who do not return are simply afraid that they will be captured or tortured, that they cannot return to Syria unharmed. That is the main reason.”