ROME — On Nov. 8, the Vatican announced the transfer of Cardinal Raymond Burke from prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, which ensures correct administration of justice in the Church, to patron of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta.
In an interview on Nov. 21, Cardinal Burke explained his new role to CNA.
“The technical title is patron,” he stated. “It is an office of representation of the Holy Father to the grand master of the sovereign military order.”
Cardinal Burke will be helping Fra Matthew Festing, prince and grand master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, colloquially known as the “Knights of Malta.”
“He is actually a professed religious, but not a priest. My work principally is to assist him, to be a spiritual guide to him and to carry forward the great work of the order.”
The order sets itself two principal missions, he said: “the defense of the faith: the defensio fidei, and then care for the poor, the obsequium pauperum. Both of these things go together, because you obviously need deep faith and the strength that comes from Christ to serve those who deserve to be served.”
The order was established in 1099 and recognized as sovereign by the pope in 1113. It has more than 13,000 members and 80,000 volunteers today. Among them are 20,000 medical personnel such as doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics.
The Knights are present in over 120 countries, some of which Cardinal Burke will visit as part of his office.
“I will be going out to visit the Knights in various parts of the world where the Knights are active. They are widespread, it is a large order, and it is very active in many aspects.”
The order has the peculiarity of being a religious order composed of laypeople. This gives them a unique spirit, but creates also challenges for their structure and dealings within the Church.
“There will be also the possibility of drawing from my knowledge as a canon lawyer to address the complex canonical questions which are tied to an order which has professed religious and also lay members in different ranks,” he added.
The cardinal voiced his optimism for the future and his work with the grand master, and he is looking forward to his new assignment.