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Audience of the Grand Master with the Holy Father

Pope Francis names Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda Patron of the Order

The Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Fra’ John Dunlap, was received in audience by Pope Francis this morning at the Vatican. The meeting, which took place a few days after the Holy Father was discharged from hospital, is the first since Fra’ John Dunlap was elected 81st Grand Master of the Order of Malta on 3rd May.

The audience offered the opportunity to review the Order’s most important commitments, starting with aid for refugees and displaced persons, increasingly at the centre of the Order of Malta’s humanitarian programmes. From the Ukraine to disasters in the Mediterranean Sea – about which the Pontiff returned in his Sunday Angelus address – Fra’ John Dunlap illustrated the main activities and initiatives of the Order of Malta’s Relief and Volunteer Corps, Associations and Grand Priories, present in 120 countries with a network of 95,000 volunteers and 52,000 doctors, nurses and emergency response experts.

Pope Francis listened attentively to the Grand Master’s words, exhorting the Order of Malta to continue its millenary mission of assistance and charity to face the many global challenges.

At the end of the conversation, the Grand Master presented the Pope with a silver medal depicting the birth in January of the 100,000 th child in the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, which is run by the Order of Malta. The Pontiff reciprocated with a plate of Caltagirone ceramic depicting the papal coat of arms.

At the end of the audience Pope Francis received the Sovereign Council of the Order of Malta and the Order of Malta’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Antonio Zanardi Landi.

Fra’ John Dunlap and Grand Chancellor Riccardo Paternò di Montecupo also met the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Earlier today, Pope Francis also appointed Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda as the Order of Malta’s new Patronus. The Cardinal Patron has the task of promoting the spiritual interests of the Order and its Members as well as the relations between the Holy See and the Order.

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The mission of the Order of Malta is inspired by its tradition of ‘Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum', to assist the poor and the sick, and bear witness to the Christian faith.


The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order - which is based in Rome, in via Condotti - has its own Government, an independent magistracy, and bilateral diplomatic relations with 110 countries.


The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1048, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature.