Sacked Grand Chancellor of Knights of Malta Reinstated

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 25, 2017   

Comes one day after Pope asks Grand Master Matthew Festing to resign

ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - The former Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Malta, dismissed from the order after a condom scandal, has reportedly been reinstated. This takes place only one day after Grand Master Matthew Festing stepped down after nine years as head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, at the request of the Holy Father. The Order announced Wednesday it would convene a Sovereign Council to formalize his resignation January 28:

The Grand Magistry of the Sovereign Order of Malta announces that Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing has convened an extraordinary session of the Sovereign Council for 28 January 2017 for the acceptance of his resignation from the office of Grand Master. This is in accordance with Article 16 of the Constitution of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Christopher Lamb, a writer at the U.K.'s Tablet, tweeted late Wednesday morning: "Hearing that Von Boeselager now reinstated as Grand Chancellor of @orderofmalta with all decisions taken post-Dec 5th revoked."

Church Militant asked for the source of the reports, and Lamb responded, "Sources inside order + Cardinal Parolin's December letter says action against Boeselager should be suspended."

Von Boeselager was dismissed December 6 after separate investigations revealed he had direct knowledge of the distribution of condoms to prostitutes in Myanmar, Kenya and South Sudan via Malteser International, the charitable arm he oversaw between 1989 and 2014. Von Boeselager has denied the charges, in spite of having changed his story, at times admitting no knowledge, at other times admitting he knew of the condom distribution and justifying its necessity.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, published a letter December 12 clarifying that Pope Francis had never asked the Order of Malta to expel anyone, but rather to resolve conflict through "dialogue."

In a follow-up letter sent December 21 to the Grand Master, Parolin wrote, "As I expressed to you in my letter of 12 December 2016: 'as far as the use and diffusion of methods and means contrary to the moral law, His Holiness has asked for dialogue as the way to deal with, and resolve, eventual problems. But he has never spoken of sending someone away!'"

His Holiness has asked for dialogue.

He added that all actions by the Grand Master taken from December 5 onwards should be considered "suspended" while the Vatican commission investigated the matter.

In reaction to the establishment of the commission, the Order reaffirmed its sovereignty: The order "considers it appropriate to reiterate that the replacement of the former Grand Chancellor was an internal act of the government of the Order," declared a January 10 statement.

"Thus, considering the legal irrelevance of this [Vatican investigative] Group and of its findings relating to the legal structure of the Order of Malta, the Order has decided that it should not cooperate with it," the statement continued.

The Grand Master, Fra' Matthew Festing, doubled down in a January 14 letter, writing, "In refusing to acknowledge this [Vatican investigative] group of people's jurisdiction, I am trying to protect the Order's sovereignty."

"I will not allow the rebellion of a few influential members of the Order to succeed in their aim, for whatever reason, to drive a wedge between the Holy See and the Order, and the Holy Father and me," he continued. 

"Please pray for the Holy Father's intentions, for the continuation of our good relations with the Holy See, and for me," his letter ended.

Tuesday, a spokesman for the Order announced that the pope had asked Festing to resign. "The Pope asked him to resign and he agreed," said the spokesman.

The Vatican released a statement Wednesday on the resignation.

Yesterday (January 24), in audience with the Holy Father, His Highness Fra' Matthew Festing resigned from the office of Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Today (January 25) the Holy Father accepted his resignation, expressing appreciation and gratitude to Fra' Festing for his loyalty and devotion to the Successor of Peter, and his willingness to serve humbly the good of the Order and the Church.

The governance of the Order will be undertaken ad interim by the Grand Commander pending the appointment of the Papal Delegate.

Church Militant contacted the Order of Malta, but as of press time has not confirmed the reports of von Boeselager's reinstatement.

 

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Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.

Christine Niles is executive producer and editor-in-chief at ChurchMilitant.com.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @ChristineNiles1