Pope Francis appointed Canadian Fra' John T. Dunlap as the new leader of the Order of Malta on June 13, as the previous leader Fra' Marco Luzzago passed away on June 7.
The Canadian-born lawyer, 65, is the first New Yorker who will serve as the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, a role held by Luzzago for two years.
The Lieutenant of the Grand Master is usually elected for a one-year term. Last year however, Pope Francis had decided to extend Luzzago's tenure sine die until the election of a new Grand Master of the order, a position traditionally held for life, as per Catholic News Agency.
Now, by direct order of the Pope, Dunlap is the new Lieutenant of the Grand Master and is expected to work closely with Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the special delegate to the Order.
What is the Order of Malta?
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta is commonly referred to as the Order of Malta or Knights of Malta.
It is a Catholic religious order that is focused towards overseeing hospital and medical services in 122 countries across the globe. With 80,000 volunteers and 42,000 medical staff, the order looks after the homeless, refugees, the disabled, children, terminally ill as well as victims of national disasters, as per UN.
This Roman Catholic organization of Rome has more than 13,000 members from all over the world.
Who is John T. Dunlap?
Born in Ottawa, Canada 1957, Dunlap is an attorney admitted to the New York State Bar and is also a barrister and solicitor of the bar of the province of Ontario. He earned his degree of law from the University of Western Ontario and has also studied in University of Nice, France and the University of Ottawa.
In 1986 Dunlap joined the New York based Dunnington Bartholow & Miller law firm and subsequently became a partner in 1993.
According to Angelus news, he was admitted to the Knights of Malta in 1996 and a year later was appointed as a legal adviser to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York. The 65-year-old took temporary vows as a Knight of Justice in 2004 and four years later took solemn vows as the first American member.
Dunlap was elected as a member of the sovereign council in 2009 for a five-year term and continued working for the same till 2019.
The press release by the order underlines the roles and responsibilities of the Canadian-born lawyer. It states that Dunlap will be responsible for ratifying international agreements and supervising monetary assets, NY Post reported.
As he is "vested with supreme authorities" his privileges and duties will be similar to that of a head of state. Dunlap is the first non-European to lead the Catholic organization in its thousand-year history.