Pope Laments Death of Order of Malta Grand Master

Says Bertie Was Known for His Love of the Church

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2008 (Zenit.org.- Benedict XVI has expressed his condolences to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta for the death of Grand Master Fra' Andrew Bertie, who died Thursday in Rome. He was 79.

The Pope sent a telegram today to the lieutenant ad interim of the order, Fra' Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, who remains acting head until a new grand master is elected.

In his message the Pontiff praised "the work of this man of culture and of his generous commitment in the fulfillment of his high office, especially in favor of those most in need, and for his love for the Church and for his luminous testimony of the principles of the Gospel."

Bertie was the first Englishman to be elected to the post of grand master in the order's 900-year history.

Admitted to the order in 1956, he took solemn religious vows in 1981, and served on the sovereign council for the following seven years before being elected grand master in 1988, the highest position in the order.

Bertie oversaw many changes in the Order of Malta, increased membership in the order and extended the possibilities of aid to the poor and the needy.

He augmented from 49 to 100 the number of the order's bilateral diplomatic missions, which offer assistance to afflicted countries in times of natural disasters or armed conflicts.

Bertie held numerous decorations from countries and universities around the world, and won several awards including the Path to Peace Award in 2005 and the Matteo Ricci Award in 2006.

The Order of Malta, recognized by the Pope in 1133, is the fourth oldest religious order in the Church. It currently works serving the poor and the sick throughout the world.

The motto of the order is "Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum," that is, to defend the faith and to serve the poor.

For a time, the order was one of the most advanced fighting and naval forces in the world, but currently works serving the poor and the sick throughout the world.

Currently 12,500 members and 80,000 permanent volunteers, assisted by 13,000 doctors and nurses, are engaged in the charitable works of the order.