Thousands of messages of condolence, expressions of sorrow and gratitude, arrived in the hours following the passing of Grand Master Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre on 29th April last in Rome.
Volunteers from the Order of Malta’s relief corps, recipients, heads of state and government, doctors, members and chaplains have all been united in grief for the loss of a “zealous man of culture and faith” as Pope Francis remembered him and of a “faithful witness to the evangelical counsels of charity and to tangible assistance to those most in need”, in the words of the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella.
“I want to embrace you all virtually to share the loss of the Grand Master, a man I had the great fortune to meet during my stay in hospital,” writes a young patient suffering from a serious pathology in the St. John Baptist Hospital in Rome. “Returning to the ward after a celebration, I found myself being helped by a great lord in a green loden …a tranquil expression, with white hair and a white moustache…it was him! It was the Grand Master, who with great kindness accompanied me in the lift and led me back to the first floor of the Knights of Malta’s hospital. Thank you, Grand Master.”
“I remember with gratitude,” the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote in his message of condolence, “the intense personal discussions I had with Fra’ Giacomo during his recent visit to Germany. His ideas helped me to take a new approach to the role of women in the Order and to clarify important issues concerning rite and liturgy.” The Austrian President, Alexander van der Bellen, also recalls “with pleasure his meeting and interesting dialogue with the Grand Master,” in the Magistral Palace in 2017. Many heads of state and government have expressed their sorrow, including King Felipe VI of Spain, the monarchs of Belgium, the presidents of the Baltic Republics, of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary as well as the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Numerous messages of esteem, affection and gratitude also came from the Middle East, from several African countries in which the Order operates and from the Americas, Asia and Oceania.
“More than anything else, his kindness and his goodness struck you,” one of his close collaborators in the Grand Magistry recalls with emotion. “A man of rare sensitivity and humanity whose priority was to help the less fortunate. We will always remember his tenderness in approaching the most vulnerable, his constant concern for them and for those who assisted them. It was an honour to have known him and a privilege to have often shared voluntary service with him. Bon voyage Fra’ Giacomo, may the earth rest lightly on you”. This is the final farewell of some Italian Relief Corps volunteers with whom the Grand Master frequently shared his mission of Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum.
“We all of us were touched by his kindness, humility and genuine warmth,” writes André A. Morin, on behalf of the International Association of Catholic Bioethics. “His smile and his fraternal handshake gave me serenity and courage, a unique legacy I will cherish forever,” the Order of Malta’s magistral chaplain Msgr. Tommaso Stenico recalls. “With great respect and gratitude, we bid farewell in mourning, especially to a good friend of many years!”, writes Hans-Christoph Hohenbuehel of the Bolzano-Alto Adige delegation. All the procurators and presidents of the associations have also expressed their esteem and affection on behalf of the Order’s members in the five continents and innumerable messages have flooded the various social networks.
“May the tears that roll down our faces today,” says Andrea Coldani, magistral chaplain, “become prayers for our Order’s journey and for its increasingly effective action in the service of faith and charity!”