The legal system of the Order

Governor General – Grand Commander – Grand Chancellor – Grand Hospitaller – Receiver of the Common Treasure – Sovereign Council – Government Bodies – Order to the Merit Melitense  – Order of Malta Constitution

The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order – which is based in Malta, has its own Government, an independent magistracy, bilateral diplomatic relations with 20 countries. Its operational activities are managed by the  eight Grand Priories. Order’s life is governed by the Constitution and the Code, reformed in 2010.

The Governor General governs the Order both as sovereign and religious head. He is elected for life, within the professed knights in perpetual vows. He is assisted by and presides over the Sovereign Council, which is composed of four high offices – Grand Commander, Grand Chancellor, Grand Hospitaller, and Receiver of the Common Treasure – as well as six other members, all elected by the Order’s Chapter General for a five-year term. The Council of Government and the Board of Auditors, whose compositions reflect the international character of the Order, assist the Grand Master and the Sovereign Council. The Chapter General also elects these two bodies for a five-year term.

The legal system of the Order is expressed by the usual division into three powers:

Legislative power Rests with the Governor General and Sovereign Council for non-constitutional matters; with the Chapter General, representing the Supreme Assembly of Knights, as far as constitutional rules are concerned.

Executive power Rests with the Sovereign Council, chaired by the Governor General and composed of ten Knights elected by the Chapter General.

Judicial power It is exercised by the Magistral Courts of First Instance and of Appeal, composed of judges appointed by the Governor General and the Sovereign Council from Order members of legal expertise.Rests with the Grand Master and Sovereign Council for non-constitutional matters; with the Chapter General, representing the Supreme Assembly of Knights, as far as constitutional rules are concerned.

Governor General The Governor General is elected for life from the Professed Knights by the Council Complete of State. According to the Constitution, as the religious Superior and Sovereign, he must fully dedicate himself to the development of the works of the Order and to set an example of living by principles to all the members of the Order. He is vested with supreme authorities. Together with the Sovereign Council, the Governor General issues the legislative measures not covered by the Constitution, promulgates government acts, manages Common Treasure assets, ratifies, international agreements and the summoning of the Chapter General. The States with which the Order has diplomatic relations recognise the Governor General with the prerogatives, immunities and honours reserved for Heads of State. The title of Most Eminent Highness is bestowed on the Governor General.

Grand Commander The Grand Commander is the religious superior of the Professed Knights and of the Knights and Dames in Obedience. His duties include: spreading the principles of the Faith, supervising Priories and Subpriories, compiling reports on the state and life of the Order, and  seeing to the religious aspects of the activities of Professed Knights and Knights in Obedience. In particular he is in charge of instructing the members of the Sovereign Order in the fulfilment of the principles of Pro Fide Pro Utilitate Hominum. The Grand Commander also takes care of the Magistral Palace Chapel and the organisation of pilgrimages. He acts as Lieutenant ad Interim in the case of the death, resignation from office or permanent incapacity of the Governor General.

Grand Chancellor The Grand Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs is the head of the executive branch. He is responsible for the foreign policy and the diplomatic missions of the Order. He is also the Minister of the Interior. Under the authority of the Grand Master and the terms of the Constitution and Code, he is responsible for the representation of the Order to third parties, the carrying out of policy and the internal administration of the Order, as well as the coordination of the activities of the Government of the Order.

Grand Hospitaller The Grand Hospitaller’s responsibilities include the offices of Minister of Health and of Social Affairs and Minister for Humanitarian Action and Minister for International Cooperation. He coordinates and supervises the initiatives of the Grand Priories, National Associations and other Order institutions world-wide, all of which are involved in charitable and humanitarian actions, and ensures that Christian principles of care and human dignity are respected. The Grand Hospitaller is assisted by a Council composed of representatives of all the territorial regions where the Order of Malta operates.

Receiver of the Common Treasure The Receiver of the Common Treasure – the Minister of Finance – directs the administration of the finances and the property of the Order in coordination with the Grand Chancellor, under the authority of the Governor General and the surveillance of the Board of Auditors. He is responsible for drawing up the annual accounts, relating to the economic and financial state of the Order, submitting them to the Board of Auditors and to the Governor General, with the advice of the Sovereign Council, for approval.

Sovereign Council It assists the Governor General in the government of the Order. It is composed of the Governor General, who presides it, the holders of the four High Offices (Grand Commander, Grand Chancellor, Grand Hospitaller and Receiver of the Common Treasure) and six members. Apart from the Governor General, they are elected for a five year term by the Chapter General. The Sovereign Council is called by the Governor General and meets at the seat of the Order of Malta at least six times a year and whenever special circumstances require it.