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Order of Malta leader reaffirms loyalty to Pope as Vatican probes dispute

Fra' Matthew Festing said the Order would follow the Pope at this 'complex and difficult time'

Paul Cocks
3 January 2017, 11:56am
Pope Francis meets Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Fra' Matthew Festing on June 25, 2015 in Vatican City
Pope Francis meets Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Fra' Matthew Festing on June 25, 2015 in Vatican City
The leader of the Order of Malta has reaffirmed his loyalty to Pope Francis, as the Order faces an investigation by the Vatican over a recent controversy, according to Italian media.

In a letter to mark the World Day of Peace, Fra’ Matthew Festing, the organisation’s Grand Master, told Pope Francis that the Order, even in a difficult and complex time, “seeks to render its service in closely adhering to the teaching of the Church and the directions which come from the Successor to St Peter.”

Festing was referring to the recent dismissal of Albrecht Boeselager, the Grand Chancellor of the order. Boeselager has been accused of allowing the distribution of condoms, as part of a scheme with which the order was linked.

But Festing said Boeselager was removed for allegedly concealing problems in his previous role of overseeing the order’s charitable work. The Order of Malta’s members run hospitals, nursing homes, night shelters and other forms of charitable outreach in 120 countries.

Boeselager refused to resign, which Festing called a “disgraceful” act of disobedience. Festing and the other senior members of the order, including the Patron, Cardinal Raymond Burke, agreed to suspend Boeselager from his membership. A new Grand Chancellor, John Chretien, has been appointed.

Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into the dispute.

John Critien: the Maltese knight was made the Order's Grand Chancellor after the sacking of Albrecht von Boeselager
John Critien: the Maltese knight was made the Order's Grand Chancellor after the sacking of Albrecht von Boeselager
In a statement on 26 December, the SMOM, which is based in Rome, said that the replacement of the former Grand Chancellor was “an act of internal governmental administration and consequently falls solely within its competence. The aforementioned appointment is the result of a misunderstanding by the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.”

Fra Matthew Festing said he had sent a letter of clarification to the Roman Pontiff, “laying out the reasons why the suggestions made by the Secretariat of State were unacceptable”.

On Saturday, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero that the Order faced an “unprecedented crisis”.

The Pope’s commission would “gather information”, Cardinal Parolin said, “and then we will see.”

Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...
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