The funeral of Fra’ Matthew Festing
The funeral of Fra’ Matthew Festing, former Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, who died at the age of 71 on November 12 last, was held today in St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. The funeral was celebrated by Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, Special Delegate of the Pope. The Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna and the Prelate of the Order, Msgr. Jean Laffitte, concelebrated.
The highest authorities of the Sovereign Order of Malta took part in the funeral service, led by the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, Fra’ Marco Luzzago. Present were the four High Charges, members of the Sovereign Council and numerous Professed members of the Order. Alongside them were members of the Order of Malta in their traditional church robe.
Arriving in Malta to pay their last respects to Fra’ Matthew were his brother, nephews and friends.
To pay homage to the 79th Grand Master – at the helm of the Order of Malta from March 2008 to January 2017 – and to testify the strong historical ties with the Order, the President of the Republic of Malta George Vella, Prime Minister Robert Abela, together with the highest institutional offices and numerous ambassadors accredited to Valletta, attended the funeral.
“Through the choice of becoming a Knight of Justice, Fra¬¬ Matthew dedicated his life to the mission of the Order, a mission that has remained constant through the centuries: tuìtio fidei et obsequium pauperum, the defense of the Faith and service to the poor” stated Cardinal Tomasi in his homily.
“After nine centuries, the mission of the Order continues to inspire and it advances on the main road of the Church, faithful to its teaching and to all those who like Fra’ Matthew – and may he rest in peace – tried without fear of their limits to implement the Gospels’ message” Tomasi then added.
Festing is the 12th Grand Master to rest in the crypt of the Co-cathedral. The last Grand Master to be buried there was Fra’ Luis Mendez de Vasconcellos in 1623, although according to reliable sources, in the same crypt – built in the 16th century – rests in an unmarked tomb the Grand Master Fra’ Francisco Ximenes de Texada, who died on the island in 1775.
The crypt is located under the main altar and contains the remains of eleven Grand Masters who led the Order from 1522 to 1623, including Jean de la Cassière, the one who commissioned the church that would become the Co-cathedral of St. John, one of the main examples of Baroque architecture in Europe.
Throughout today, the flags of the Magistral Palace and Villa in Rome and those of all the Order of Malta’s institutions, embassies and medical and social centres around the world were hoisted at half-mast as a sign of mourning.