Order of Malta holds reception for new cardinal

ROME — Boston Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta who had traveled to Rome to attend the consistory greeted their new cardinal at an open-air reception held in his honor March 26.

Nearly 50 people gathered at the Casa Santa Maria, a house for clergy members furthering their studies in Rome, in order to congratulate Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and wish him well.

“This entire celebration has been spectacular,” said James F. O’Connor, chairman for the Knights of Malta for the Archdiocese of Boston. “This whole thing — it has just been phenomenal.”

According to O’Connor, Cardinal O’Malley has always been a supporter of the Knights of Malta, even serving as a chaplain for the order before becoming archbishop of Boston.

The Knights of Malta are a lay religious order of the Church, with a nearly 1,000-year-old history.

The group boasts 11,000 members worldwide, according to O’Connor, adding that in the United States there are currently 3,000 members. About 240 members of the order reside within the Archdiocese of Boston.

“Archbishop Seán has been through a very difficult time, which has taken an extra amount of holiness to get him through it. He has an aura of holiness,” said South Boston businessman Jack Shaughnessy.

“You can’t know him without loving him,” he added. “It’s a great day for Boston, an exciting day for the Church in Boston.”

“Rome has recognized his gift,” commented Dr. Mary Jane England, president of Regis College in Weston.

“We need his leadership at this time,” she said.

“We’ve got to get our heads back up in Boston and having a cardinal-archbishop might just do that,” she added.

Joining the Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta were also representatives from the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher in Boston.

Dennis Looney, on behalf of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, presented Cardinal O’Malley with a Knights Grand Cross, an insignia of a high rank for the cardinal.

“Thank you for everything you do for the order,” Looney told the cardinal.