The Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, has died in Rome at the age of 75.
The Order of Malta announced that Dalla Torre had died in the early hours of Wednesday after suffering an incurable disease diagnosed a few months ago.
Philippa Leslie, communications director of the Order of Malta in Great Britain, told the Catholic News Agency that Dalla Torre had “a warm and sympathetic personality, a nice sense of humour, and was always completely natural and friendly with all whom he met, and took a great interest in people.”
An academic by training, Dalla Torre held positions in the Pontifical Urbaniana University, teaching classical Greek, and also served as chief librarian and archivist for the university’s important collections. He has published a range of academic articles and essays on aspects of mediaeval art history.
He was admitted to the Order in 1985, taking his solemn vows in 1993. He was elected Grand Master in 2018 after the resignation of his predecessor, Fra’ Matthew Festing.
The Order of Malta said in a statement: “A marked humanity and a profound dedication to charitable works have always inspired the 80th Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, who will be remembered by all who knew him for his human qualities and his cordial and affectionate manner.”
Portuguese Grand Commander Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas Boas will serve as interim head of the order until the election of the new Grand Master.
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a lay Catholic order founded in Jerusalem in 1099 as the Knights Hospitaller. It held sovereignty over the island of Malta from 1530 to 1789. It is now based in Rome and maintains sovereignty, holding diplomatic relations with over 100 countries as well as the United Nations.
Dalla Torre’s appointment came after a dispute between the Order and Holy See culminated in the resignation of Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing. Festing had dismissed Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager from both his position and his membership in the order in December 2016 following accusations that, under his tenure, the order’s charity branch had inadvertently been involved in distributing condoms in Burma. Boeselager was reinstated after Festing was asked to resign by Pope Francis.