He is Canadian but lives in New York City. Immediately after being officially appointed by Pope Francis, Fra’ John T. Dunlap was sworn in as the newly appointed Lieutenant-Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, one of the oldest Religious Orders of the Catholic Church (active since 1113) which today has 13,500 Knights, 80,000 volunteers and 25,000 medical professionals providing relief and humanitarian aid in 120 countries.
The ceremony, held in the presence of Cardinal Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s special delegate for the Order, and members of the Sovereign Council, took place in Rome, in the Church of Santa Maria all’Aventino, a Catholic place of worship located inside the villa of the Priory of Malta.
Dunlap succeeds Fra’ Marco Luzzago, who led the Knights of Malta from 2020 until June 7, 2022, when he passed away due to a sudden illness.
In a statement issued the day after Fra’ Luzzago’s death, it had been Fra’ Ruy Gonçalo do Valle Peixoto de Villas-Boas, Grand Commander, who had taken the reins of the Order as interim Lieutenant, stating that he would “remain at the head of the Sovereign Order until the election of the new Grand Master.”
The wait was short because Pope Francis, remembering Fra’ Marco Luzzago and the moment of “dismay and uncertainty” the Order faced after his passing, decided to take immediate action.
In a June 13 note, the Order said the Pontiff’s decision would allow it to speed up the reform process and return to ordinary administration in a short time. “The Order of Malta” it concluded, “is grateful to the Holy Father for his paternal solicitude”.
Fra’ Dunlap will now have the task of continuing the constitutional reform process, working closely with Cardinal Tomasi and the Sovereign Council. Indeed, since 2017 the Knights of Malta has been engaged in a profound process of internal revision.
Born in Ottawa in 1957, the new Lieutenant Grand Master studied at the University of Nice, France, then returned to Ottawa and finally at the University of Western Ontario, where he earned a law degree. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in public service from John Cabot University in Rome.
He is currently a lawyer and practices in New York, being part of the law firm Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller where he joined in 1986 and then became a partner in 1993, specializing in corporate and immigration law.
In his career he also has more than 20 years of experience at the UN: he is the legal adviser to the Holy See Mission to the United Nations since 1997.
Admitted to the Order of Malta in 1996, Dunlap took temporary vows as a Knight of Justice in 2004 and solemn vows in 2008. He was elected to a five-year term as a member of the Sovereign Council in 2009, being chosen a second and a third time in 2014 and 2019.