Knights of Malta: a legend towards the future by Marcello Maria Marrocco. Trischitta

By Marcello Maria Marrocco. Trischitta

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In the meantime, as was easy to foresee, the loss of Malta had grave consequences upon the members of the Order. The Knights of the Grand Phory of Russia and those of Poland deposed von Hompesch and on November 6th 1798 elected Tsar Paul I as the new Grand Master. This situation put the Holy See in great difficulties. The Pope could not tolerate that a single Grand Priory could, contrary to any norm in Canon Law, depose from office the head of the Order of St. John without his having abdicated.

In the meantime in July 1799 Hompesch abdicated upon the suggestion of the court of Vienna which needed Russia's assistance. This was very important: Paul I was to become Grand Master "de facto" but not "de iure". Although Orthodox, the Tsar respected the Catholicism of the Order under all aspects. In the confused and difficult historical moment, caused by the Napoleonic wars, it was he who saved the historical continuity of the Order of St. John. In the night between March 11th and 12th 1801 Tsar Paul I was killed in the castle of Michajlovskij in St.

Most of the Priories no longer existed and hundreds of Knights were dispersed throughout various nations with no one to guide them. It was necessary to get re-organised as soon as possible and demonstrate the vitality of an institution which, though no longer having its own territory, continue to be recognised as a Sovereign Entity by the European powers. A long and complex period of reconstruction was awaiting the Knights of the eight-pointed Cross, who would yet again have to face up to years of hard work and commitment.

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