25 February 2008

Good night to knight

Fra Andrew Bertie, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, Most Humble Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ, has died at age 78. The Knights of Malta, or Order of Malta, is nearly a thousand years old and is recognized as a sovereign entity in international law. As such, it enjoys diplomatic relations with a number of mostly, but not exclusively, Catholic states.

Although it is a Catholic order, the Order of Malta recognizes four protestant offshoots, encompassing the Brandenburg Bailiwick of the Knights' Order of the Hospital of St John in Jerusalem (Germany), the Johanniter Orde in Nederland, the Johanniterorden i Sverige (Sweden) and the British Order of St. John. Other claimants to the legacy of the Knights of Malta are regarded as illegitimate.

There is a Cyprus connection to the Knights, who once had their commanderie at Kolossi Castle in Limassol, where they produced the oldest named wine still in existence, Commandaria, a dessert wine for which the island is famous.

James-Charles Noonan, Jr., in The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church, devotes several pages to the Death and Burial of the Grand Master and to the Conclave and Election, which are now taking place at the Order's headquarters in Rome. Here is a brief report from the Catholic News Agency about Bertie and the Order of Malta:

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