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Fra’ John Dunlap 81st Grand Master of the Order of Malta

Rome, 3 May 2023 – Fra’ John Dunlap has been elected Prince and 81st Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Lieutenant of the Grand Master at the moment of his election, 66-year-old Fra’ John Dunlap, a Canadian, is the first Professed Knight from overseas to be elected as head of the Order of Malta. 

The Council Complete of State, the elective body, met in Rome in the Magistral Villa, one of the two institutional seats of the Order of Malta, and elected him by an absolute majority of votes, on the basis of a binding list of three candidates indicated yesterday by the Chapter of Professed. There were 99 voters from 18 different countries.

Fra’ John Dunlap communicated his election to Pope Francis with a letter written in his own hand. He will be sworn in today at 6.30 pm in the presence of Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi c.s., the Pope’s Special Delegate, in the Church of St. Mary on the Aventine, thus entering into the fullness of his powers. According to Article 13 of the new Constitution, he will remain in office for 10 years. The Grand Master is the head of the Order of Malta, a lay religious order of the Catholic Church and at the same time a subject of international law.

The new Grand Master, addressing the members of the Council Complete of State, said: “I accept this office with a profound spirit of service and with the solemn promise of a constant commitment. I thank each of you for having placed your trust in me and for having shown your great love for, and dedication to, our Order by your presence here today. There are many challenges that await us, but united in the awareness of our mission of Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum (witnessing the faith, helping the poor), I am sure that we will be able to face them together united and cohesively, in the same spirit that guided Blessed Gerard, founder of the Order over 900 years ago. » 

Profile of Grand Master

Born in Ottawa, Canada, on 16 April 1957, after studying in Nice University, John Dunlap graduated from the University of Ottawa and then obtained a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Western Ontario. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in Public Service by John Cabot University in Rome. 

Fra’ John Dunlap is a member of the New York State Bar and the Ontario Bar Association in Canada. In 1986, he joined the New York legal firm Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller in New York City, becoming a partner in 1993. He specializes in corporate and immigration law. An internationally respected lawyer, since 1997 he has been legal adviser to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Fra’ John Dunlap approached the Order of Malta and found his religious vocation in the mid-1980s during his volunteer work with patients suffering from AIDS and other diseases at the Cardinal Cooke Medical Center in Harlem (New York). He has volunteered in that hospital every week for the past 30 years. 

Admitted to the Order of Malta in 1996, he took his solemn vows as a Professed Knight in 2008. For over a decade he has served the Order of Malta as Chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Names and Emblems and Representative to the Alliance of the Orders of St John.

In 2009 Fra’ John Dunlap was elected for a five-year term as a member of the Sovereign Council. He was re-elected for another five-year term by the Chapter General in 2014 and 2019. He has led the Order of Malta as Lieutenant of the Grand Master since June 2022, following the death of Fra’ Marco Luzzago.

The Grand Master

According to Article 12 of the Constitution, the Grand Master is the head of the Order and is entitled to sovereign prerogatives and honours as well as the title of Most Eminent Highness. He must devote himself fully to the growth of the Order’s works and serve as an example of authentic Christian life for all members (art. 106 of the Code).

The Grand Master, together with the Sovereign Council, is responsible for issuing legislative measures not provided for by the Constitutional Charter, promulgating government acts and ratifying international agreements. He administers, through the Receiver of the Common Treasure, the Order’s assets and convenes the Chapter of Professed and the Chapter General.

The States with which the Order of Malta has diplomatic relations recognise the Grand Master with the prerogatives, immunities and honours reserved for Heads of State.

The Grand Master resides at the Order of Malta’s government seat, the Magistral Palace in Rome.