The Prince & Grand Master reviews volunteers in St. Peter’s Square in 1999, the Order’s ninth centenary.
Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was born in London on May 15, 1929 to Lt. Cdr. the Hon. James Bertie and Lady Jean Crichton-Stuart. His paternal grandfather was the 7th Earl of Abingdon, while his maternal grandfather was the 4th Marquess of Bute, and so Andrew Bertie was the great-grandson of the famous Catholic convert and benefactor of myriad causes (including, memorably, the University of St Andrews), John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute.
Fra’ Andrew had received Cardinal Ratzinger at the Magistral Palace, and upon the latter’s elevation to the Papacy it was Benedict XVI’s turn to receive the Grand Master, traditionally every June 24, the Feast of St. John.
Bertie (whose surname is traditionally pronounced “Bartie”) was educated by the Benedictines at Ampleforth Abbey, and graduated from Christ Church Oxford with a degree in Modern History, later studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. The English member of a Scottish family, he appropriately served in the Scots Guards, leaving as a commissioned officer in 1949. After a brief stint as a financial journalist in the City of London, he moved to the school at Worth Abbey in Sussex, where he taught French and Spanish for twenty-three years.
Andrew Bertie became Fra’ Andrew in 1981, and the newly-professed Knight of Justice was appointed to the Sovereign Council of the Order. The Order of Malta is unique in that, unlike any other military, chivalric, or religious order, it is juridically sovereign. The Order’s sovereignty dates to when, like other sovereign entities such as France, Canada, or India, it ruled over a geographic territory, originally the Greek island of Rhodes, and later the Mediterranean island of Malta. Of course, the Order has become permanently associated with the island of Malta despite having lost control of it in 1798 when Napoleon took advantage of the fact that the Order forbade itself from fighting against fellow Christians. After the fall of Napoleon, Malta became a British colony. Though its territory was lost, the Order has continued to maintain its sovereignty, and as such enjoys diplomatic relations with several states (with ambassadors exchanged) and has official governmental relations with others.
Fra’ Andrew is depicted receiving the standard of the Order from St. John the Baptist, it’s patron on one of the coins minted by the Knights.
The Order eventually found itself at Rome, where it is still headquartered to this day, and continued its numerous charitable activities for the poor and the sick. Fra’ Andrew continued the modernization undertaken by his predecessor, Fra’ Angelo de Mojana di Cologna in transforming the Order’s charitable activities to suit the present-day needs of humanitarian relief. The official motto of the order is Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum, “Defense of the Faith and Service of the Poor”, but another motto used frequently by the Order is Seigneurs, Malades, “Our lords: the sick”.
At the Order’s International Pilgrimage to Lourdes, May 2006.
Fra’ Andrew commented that ever since the foundation of the first hospital in Jerusalem, the purpose of the Order has remained: “The other military orders were there to fight the Saracens and to save Spain or the Holy Land or Prussia from the pagans. But we always had this special commitment to the poor and the sick. Our aims today are exactly the same as they were in 1099, the sanctification of our members through service to the sick.”
On an official state visit to Budapest, May 2004.
Under Fra’ Andrew’s guidance, the number of countries with which the Order of Malta has diplomatic relations has doubled, and now stands at 100 (some of them non-Catholic countries). The Order has 12,500 Knights and Dames, 93,000 volunteers (80,000 of them specially-trained), and 13,000 employees (overwhelmingly doctors, nurses, and stretcher-bearers), with a presence in 120 countries.
Exhibiting the Church of Santa Maria del Priorato to the Romanian President, October 2004.
The operations of the Order today are astounding. With the collapse of the Iron Curtain in the early years of Fra’ Andrew’s reign, the Order of Malta rapidly expanded its charitable works in Central and Eastern Europe. Irish knights founded an ambulance corps in the 1920s and since that time the Order has become a major provider of first-aid training, ambulance transport, and community care services. In Scotland, the Order supports Dial-A-Journey, a charity that helps to keep the elderly mobile and help them get around. Hospitals were, of course, the very first work of the Order, and it maintains hospitals today throughout the world. The hospital in Rome specializes in neurological treatment and rehabilitation. “John & Lizzies”, the Hospital of St. John and St. Elizabeth in St. John’s Wood, London, has a unit specializing in the treatment of the terminally ill.
The Order of Malta’s humanitarian relief station at a refugee camp, Kosovo, 1999.
Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem is the only provider of Western-quality health services for pregnant women in the Palestinian West Bank. The French Association of the Order of Malta runs hospitals in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Madagascar, and Togo. The Order runs leprosy care centers in Senegal and Cambodia, as well as Brazil. In France there are nine specialized centers for the disabled, and there are similar institutions run by the Order in Hungary, Poland, Lebanon, Ecuador, and the United States. One of the most prominent works of the Order with the disabled is their help in bringing the disabled to Lourdes. (Andrew Bertie was Hospitaller of the Sanctuary of Lourdes). These are just a sample of the works carried out under the auspices of the Order of Malta; there are also orphanages, centers for youth and adolescents, kindergartens for the poor, shelters for the homeless, rehabilitation centers for drug addicts, and rapid reaction humanitarian relief teams to care for the survivors of natural disasters and war, and for the accomodation of refugees.
“To be a member of the order is not an honor. It’s not about being able to dangle a nice cross around your neck. It’s not a question of sending in a check once a year. It’s about working with the sick and the poor,” the late Grand Master once said. “Our aim is to help the poor and the sick, that is and always has been our primary aim”.
Fra’ Andrew was also a black belt in Judo and organized as well as taught Judo courses to the young in Malta. He was Patron of the Malta Judo Federation, which has announced that the Under-20 international tournament they organize will now be named the Andrew Bertie Memorial Tournament. The Federation released a statement which said that they will greatly miss Fra’ Andrew.
The normally reserved Grand Master takes a few moments to chat with one of the Order’s volunteers acting as stewards and first-aid responders in Rome after the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI.
In a statement to Bailiff Frà Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, the Grand Commander of the Order who has been named Lieutenant ad interim until a new Grand Master is elected, Pope Benedict XVI mourned Fra’ Andrew and 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”.
“When you spoke to him, you felt you were in the presence of a serene, humble person,” said Dr. Fenech Adami, the President of the Republic of Malta. “He was a very holy man who loved Malta a lot, especially for its ties with the Order”. As the official statement from the Magistral Palace stated, Bertie spent a great deal of time in Malta, “where he was very involved in organising and teaching judo courses for children as well as tending his farm, whose four different varieties of oranges were a constant source of pride in good weather and anxiety in bad.”
The earthly remains of Fra’ Andrew Bertie are now lying in state in the Chapel of Santa Maria del Priorato on the Aventine Hill in Rome. The Grand Master was received into Santa Maria del Priorato on Friday afternoon by his brother Peregrine Bertie, the members of the Sovereign Council, and some of the Grand Master’s colleagues. The Chapel will remain open every day between 10:00am and 6:00pm until Friday February 15. The Chapel will be reserved for members of the diplomatic corps to pay their respects between 10:30 and 12:30 on the 11th and 12th.
The funeral will take place at the Basilica of Santa Sabina at 11:30 on Saturday, February 16. The official state funeral will take place 30 days after the death, on March 8.
Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie
Prince and Grand Master
of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John
of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta
Most Humble Guardian of the Poor of Jesus Christ
May 15, 1929 – February 7, 2008
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.
Category: Order of Malta