Pope ordered Cardinal Burke to clean out Freemasons

Discussion in 'General discussion' started by karnala, Jan 12, 2017.

  1. karnala

    karnala Well-Known Member

    Pope ordered Card. Burke to clean out Freemasons from the Knights of Malta


    It has emerged that during a meeting between Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke in November about the scandal of the Knights of Malta distributing condoms and oral contraceptives in Africa, the Holy Father instructed Cardinal Burke to "clean out" Freemasonry from the order. The Holy Father gave this order to Cardinal Burke in his role as patron of the Knights of Malta by papal appointment.....

  2. David

    David Well-Known Member

    This topic (the Vatican investigating problems with the Knights of Malta) is something still playing out but the Catholic Herald had a useful report which will be helpful to remember as things develop:

    Order of Malta leader professes loyalty to Pope Francis amid Vatican investigation

    by Staff Reporter
    posted Monday, 2 Jan 2017
    Pope Francis with the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra' Matthew Festing, during a private audience in 2014 (PA)

    The leader of the Order of Malta has promised Pope Francis his loyalty, as the Order faces an investigation by the Vatican over a recent controversy.

    In a letter to mark the World Day of Peace, Fra’ Matthew Festing, the organisation’s Grand Master, told Pope Francis: “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.”

    Fra’ Matthew was referring to the recent dismissal of Albrecht von 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 Fra’ Matthew 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 Fra’ Matthew called a “disgraceful” act of disobedience. Fra’ Matthew 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.

    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.”

  3. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Knights of Malta: Francis’ letter
    This is how the Holy See became involved in the whole affair: In November, Cardinal Burke asked the Pope to intervene in order to give his backing to the removal of former Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager. But Francis did not ask for any resignation in that letter
    Fra' Matthew Festing, Sovereign of the Order of Malta, with Pope Francis.

    Pubblicato il 13/01/2017

    Tensions between the Holy See and the Order of Malta are high after the statement in which the Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing publicly declared that the Order does not intend to collaborate in any way with the commission established by the Holy See in light of the Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager’s removal. He was accused of having condoms distributed during the course of a humanitarian initiative in Myanmar in recent years. Boeselager defended himself by saying he knew nothing about this move, which was decided on a local level, and that he intervened as soon as he heard about it. In a pointed letter from the Grand Master, the Order lays claim to its sovereignty, reminding everyone that it has its own independent rules and that the Pope must not interfere in internal affairs. Yet the attempt to involve the Pope by asking him to give his backing to the dismissal of some Knights, came from the Order, or rather, from its patron cardinal, Raymond Leo Burke and the whole affair began with a letter from Francis himself.

    On 5 January, The Tablet revealed the existence of a letter, which the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent Fra’ Matthew Festing on 21 December 2016, informing him that the Pope did not want von Boeselager removed. “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!’” So there are two letters Parolin addressed to the Grand Master and already in the first of these, dated 12 December, there was reference to what the Pope has “asked” for. But why and when did Francis get involved in the internal affairs of the Knights requesting something?

    It all started on 10 November 2016, when the Pope received the Order’s patron cardinal, Raymond Leo Burke, in an audience. There was less than a week to go before the publication of the famous “dubia” regarding the “Amoris Laetitia”, presented a month and a half earlier but this was apparently not what the dispute was about. In the days following the audience, Francis sent Burke a letter addressed to the heads of the Knights of Malta, inviting them to resolve the controversy with dialogue while ensuring the respect of Catholic morality (a not so implicit reference to the issue involving the distribution of condoms in Myanmar, used as a pretext to justify von Boeselager’s dismissal) and to watch out for any associations contrary to the Church from infiltrating the Order. It appears that the cardinal asked the Pope to approve the removal of various members of the Order including the Grand Chancellor. Francis intervened, recalling certain principles, at the same time calling for the matter to be discussed internally, without purging anyone.

    When it came to removing von Boeselager, the Vatican, or rather, the Pope’s approval was mentioned by way of justification. Francis and the Holy See were thus brought into the affair so that they could corroborate the shocking decision taken and shared by the Grand Master and the patron cardinal. This is partly why the cardinal Secretary of State, Francis’ right hand man, sent the two letters which followed, on top of the initial letter sent by Francis: to reiterate what the Pope had actually asked for and deny the words that had been put into his mouth.

    It is hard to tell how this controversy - which is not the first in the history of the Order’s relations with the Vatican - is going to end. The clear stance taken by the Grand Master in the letter that states the Order’s refusal to cooperate with the commission established by the Holy See, claiming that it has no right to interfere in the Order’s affairs, is a testament to how high tensions are.

    Meanwhile, the commission responded in equally clear terms to the tough statement issued by the Grand Master, with a legal note published by the Catholic News Service, the news agency of US Catholic bishops, recalling that the decision to establish the group did not come from the Secretary of State but from the Pope himself. It reminds the Knights of Malta that as a lay religious order and as a legal body that is recognised by the Holy See, “professed knights and chaplains bind themselves to obey the Holy Father”. The legal note recalls that the commission established by Pope Francis "is completely legitimate and authorized" to investigate the matter and inform the Pope, also about the circumstances surrounding the removal of von Boeselager, “This is not about interfering in the internal affairs of the order,” the note states, “because the purpose of the commission, as is evident, is to give an account to the Holy Father on the procedures (used to remove von Boeselager) and nothing else”.

  4. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Vatican unwavering in ongoing row with Knights of Malta


    By Elise Harris

    Vatican City, Jan 17, 2017 / 09:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the latest development in an ongoing feud between the Vatican and the Knights of Malta, the Holy See has issued a statement affirming their support for the Order and their work, but saying they expect full cooperation with an investigation into the dismissal of the Knights’ former Grand Chancellor.

    “In relation to the events of recent weeks concerning the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Holy See wishes to reiterate its support and encouragement for the commendable work that members and volunteers carry out in various parts of the world,” a Jan. 17 statement from the Vatican read.

    However, it is for the “support and advancement” of the Order’s essential mission in service of the poor, sick, and the defense of the faith that the Holy See voiced a reaffirmation of “its confidence” in the five member group appointed by Pope Francis “to inform him about the present crisis of the Central Direction of the Order.”

    The Vatican said it also “rejects, based on the documentation in its possession, any attempt to discredit these members of the group and their work.”

    The line refers to recent reports that in the past few days the Knights have voiced their intention to launch an inquiry into the Vatican’s investigative group on the grounds that they have a “conflict of interest,” citing links between certain group members to a fund in Geneva.

    The statement is the latest move in what has turned out to be a heated feud between the Knights of Malta and the Vatican over the ousting of the Order’s former Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, in early December.

    Shortly after Boeselager was dismissed the Knights released a Dec. 13 statement saying his removal was due to the “subsequent concealment … from the Grand Magistry” of “severe problems which occurred during [his] tenure as Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta.”

    Since then it has come to be known that the problem cited refers to when the Order's charity branch, under Boeselager’s watch, had inadvertently been involved in distributing condoms in Burma to prevent HIV.

    In comments to CNA, the Order’s Communications Director confirmed that while the Burmese incident was part of why Boeselager was asked to resign, the full list of reasons is “more complex.” However, he did not reveal what the full motivations were, saying “the reasons for the dismissal are confidential.”

    The Vatican announced Dec. 22 that Pope Francis had formed a group of five senior officials shortly after the forced resignation to investigate the matter. Members of the group include Archbishop Silvestro Tomasi, Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda S.J., Jacques de Liedekerke, Marc Odendall, and Marwan Sehnaoui.

    In response, the Knights issued a Jan. 10 statement defending their decision, calling Boeselager’s dismissal “an internal act of governance,” making the group established by the Holy See to investigate the decision is “legally irrelevant” given the Order’s sovereignty.

    The Order voiced both their refusal to cooperate in the investigation as well as their encouragement for members questioned by the Vatican group to not take a stance other than that of the Grand Magistry.

    “Considering the legal irrelevance of this 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,” they said in their Jan. 10 statement, insisting this refusal is meant to protect the Order’s sovereignty against “initiatives which claim to be directed at objectively (and, therefore – quite apart from its intentions – reveals it to be legally irrelevant) questioning or even limiting said Sovereignty.”

    They also charged that depositions individual members might give to the Vatican’s investigative group “cannot, in their terms and judgments, be in contradiction, directly or indirectly,” with the decision to remove Boeselager from his position.

    However, despite the ongoing tensions, the Vatican in their Jan. 17 statement said the Holy See “counts on the complete cooperation of all in this sensitive stage.”

    In addition, it said the Holy See “awaits the report of the above-mentioned group in order to adopt, within its area of competence, the most fitting decisions for the good of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and of the Church.”

  5. David

    David Well-Known Member

    The latest development in this matter:

    The Grand Master of the Knights of Malta has resigned
    The Order has made a surprise announcement informing that Matthew Festing is stepping down as leader of the Knights of Malta in light of tensions with the Holy See
    The Pope with Matthew Festing

    Pubblicato il 25/01/2017

    The Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Malta, Matthew Festing handed in his resignation after Pope Francis requested him to do so. A spokesman for the Order announced the news to Reuters news agency: “The Pope asked him to resign and he agreed.” Holy See sources confirmed to Vatican Insider that the news about the requested resignation is true. This is the latest dramatic turn of events in a dispute that began with the dismissal of the Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager last December. He was accused of allowing an NGO that was working with the Order, to distribute condoms in Africa and Asia a few years ago. Boeselager has always defended himself saying he knew nothing about the initiative and that he stopped it the minute he heard about it.

    American cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Patron of the Order of Malta, had firmly requested Boeselager’s removal, asking the Pope to back such a move, in an audience which took place in November 2016. Francis had prepared a letter addressed to Burke, calling for respect of Catholic morality. He also, however, urged for the problem to be resolved through dialogue within the Order itself. It is not clear whether the heads of the Order had been informed of this letter but the Grand Chancellor, the Order’s second most important figure was removed anyway, despite the Pope’s request for the issue to be resolved otherwise.

    Boeselager did not passively agree to his dismissal but appealed to the Holy See. After two letters were sent by the Vatican Secretary of State, recalling the real content of the Pope’s letter and calling – in vain – for the Grand Chancellor’s removal to be reconsidered, Francis appointed a commission led by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to shed light on the matter.

    Sixty-seven-year-old Festing who was meant to hold his post as Grand Master for life, responded in a very harsh way to the papal decision, emphasising that the Knights of Malta’s full independence and affirming that the Order’s leadership had apparently not co-operated in any way with the commission set up by the Pope. There was also an attempt to discredit the commission with the claim that some of its members had links with Boeselager and the financial operations conducted by the Chancellor himself. Once again, the Vatican sent a swift response, reiterating its faith in the Order of Malta and in its charity work across the world At the same time, however, it expressed its complete trust in the commission headed by Mgr. Tomasi.

    Festing’s resignation is a clear sign that the equilibrium in Order of Malta’s leadership has been entirely broken. According to some observers, there is a clash between the English and German spirits of the Knights, some of whom are professed Knights and therefore constitute a religious order. Cardinal Burke played a key role in the affair.

  6. David

    David Well-Known Member

    and the Catholic Herald has even more:

    Vatican: Pope Francis to name delegate to run Order of Malta
    by Associated Press
    posted Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017
    Pope Francis with Fra' Matthew Festing (CNS)

    The Vatican said Wednesday it was taking over the embattled Order of Malta in an extraordinary display of papal power after the Order’s grand master publicly defied Pope Francis in a bitter dispute over condoms.

    The move marks the intervention of one sovereign state — the Holy See — into the governance of another, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an ancient aristocratic order that runs a vast charity operation around the globe.

    The Vatican said Fra’ Matthew Festing, 67, offered to resign as grand master Tuesday during an audience with the Pope, and that Pope Francis had accepted it on Wednesday.

    The statement said the Order’s governance would shift temporarily to the order’s No. 2 “pending the appointment of the papal delegate.”

    The naming of a delegate signals a Vatican takeover, harking back to the Vatican’s previous takeovers of the Legion of Christ and Jesuit religious orders when they were undergoing periods of scandal or turmoil.

    But those are religious orders that report directly to the Holy See. The Order of Malta is a sovereign entity under international law, making the Vatican intervention all the more remarkable.

    Fra’ Matthew had refused to cooperate with a papal commission investigating his ousting of the order’s grand chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, over revelations that the Order’s charity branch had distributed condoms under his watch.

    Fra’ Matthew had cited the Order’s status as a sovereign entity in refusing to cooperate with what he said was an act of internal governance. Many canon lawyers had backed him up, questioning the Pope’s right to intervene.

    But Fra’ Matthew defiance had been fraught from the start, given that he took a promise of obedience to the Pope as a top-level knight, and regardless was the leader of a prominent Catholic order who was entering into a public fray with the leader of the Catholic Church.

    The dispute once again pitted Pope Francis against Cardinal Raymond Burke, a leading conservative and Pope Francis critic who also happens to be the Pope’s envoy to the order.

    Cardinal Burke had been by Fra’ Matthew’s side on December 6 when Fra’ Matthew first asked, then demanded Boeselager’s resignation. Boeselager refused, but was ousted two days later under a disciplinary procedure he contends violated the order’s own rules.

    Boeselager had been the Knights’ health minister when its charity branch Malteser International was found to have been involved in programs that distributed thousands of condoms to poor people in Burma.

    Church teaching forbids artificial contraception. Boeselager has said he stopped the programmes when he learned of them. The Order’s leadership has said the scandal was grave, that Boeselager had hidden the revelations of the programs, and called it “disgraceful” that he had refused an order to obey Festing and resign.

    Boeselager has challenged his removal, appealing to the Knights’ internal tribunal.

    Many of the Order’s members had lamented how the confrontation with the Holy See had drawn unwanted negative attention to the Order, which relies on donations to fund its charity works around the globe.

    Pope Francis appointed a commission to investigate after Boeselager said he had been told by Fra’ Matthew, in Cardinal Burke’s presence, that the Holy See wanted him to resign over the scandal. The Vatican secretary of state has said the Pope wanted nothing of the sort and wanted the dispute to be resolved through dialogue.

    Last week, the Holy See said it expected the order to cooperate with its probe, and in a sharply worded statement said it planned to take action to resolve the dispute.

    The Order of Malta has many trappings of a sovereign state, issuing its own stamps, passports and license plates and holding diplomatic relations with 106 states, the Holy See included.

    The Holy See, however, has a unique relationship with the Order since it is a Catholic entity, and the Pope appoints a cardinal to “promote the spiritual interests” of the Order and its relationship with the Vatican. Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Burke to that position in 2014 after removing him as the Vatican’s supreme court justice.

    The Order traces its history to the 11th-century Crusades with the establishment of an infirmary in Jerusalem that cared for people of all faiths. It now counts 13,500 members and 100,000 staff and volunteers who provide health care in hospitals and clinics around the world.

    Full text of Vatican statement

    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.​

  7. David

    David Well-Known Member

    And here is the latest development in this significant matter. The following announcement on the Knights of Malta website announces the reinstatement of the Grand Chancellor who had been dismissed. The Grand Master, Matthew Festing, who resigned has, in my view, behaved very well in a difficult situation. Pope Francis has managed to deal with problems within the Order speedily and effectively but the Pope's critics continue to interpret everything negatively.


    Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein assumes the office of Lieutenant ad interim.
    Albrecht Boeselager resumes his office as Grand Chancellor


    The Sovereign Council, the government of the Sovereign Order of Malta, met this afternoon in the Magistral Palace in Rome. On the agenda was the resignation from Office of Grand Master presented by Fra’ Matthew Festing, in accordance with article 16 of the Constitution of the Order of Malta. The Sovereign Council accepted his resignation from office. Conforming to the Constitution, the Pope has been notified of the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing, which will be communicated to the 106 Heads of State with whom the Order has diplomatic relations. In accordance with Article 17 of the Constitution, the Grand Commander, Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, has assumed the office of Lieutenant ad interim and will remain the Order of Malta’s head until the election of the successor of the Grand Master. The Sovereign Council thanked Fra’ Matthew Festing for his great commitment during his nine years in office.

    Subsequently, the Sovereign Council presided over by the Lieutenant ad interim annulled the decrees establishing the disciplinary procedures against Albrecht Boeselager and the suspension of his membership in the Order. Albrecht Boeselager resumes his office as Grand Chancellor immediately.

    In a letter sent yesterday, 27 January 2017, to Fra’ Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein and the members of the Sovereign Council, Pope Francis reaffirmed the special relationship between the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Apostolic See. The Pope affirmed that the Lieutenant ad interim assumes responsibility over the Order’s government, in particular regarding relationships with other States. Pope Francis noted precisely that his Special Delegate will be operating on “the spiritual renewal of the Order, specifically of its professed members.” The Sovereign Order of Malta ensures its full collaboration with the Special Delegate whom the Holy Father intends to appoint.

    The Sovereign Order of Malta is most grateful to Pope Francis and the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for their interest in and care for the Order. The Order appreciates that the Holy Father’s decisions were all carefully taken with regard to and respect for the Order, with a determination to strengthen its sovereignty.

    The Lieutenant ad interim together with the Sovereign Council will soon convoke the Council Complete of State for the election of the successor of the Grand Master, according to Art. 23 of the Constitution.


    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
  8. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Malta: Boeselager is Chancellor again, Festing’s resignation has been accepted
    The Order’s Sovereign Council has accepted the Grand Master’s resignation. The number three man who had been dismissed has now got his position back, while Hoffmann von Rumerstein takes up office as Lieutenant ad interim

    Pubblicato il 29/01/2017

    A hint of calm returns to the Order of Malta. Despite the predictions – and perhaps even hopes – of some about a new dispute, on the afternoon of 28 January, the Sovereign Council accepted Grand Master Matthew Festing’s resignation which had been requested by the Pope and presented last 25 January. In the same breath, it revoked the disciplinary decrees for the dismissal of Albrecht Boeselager last December. Boeselager will go back to holding the Order’s third highest ranking post, that is the position of Grand Chancellor. This is according to a statement issued by the Order. (see above)

    Yesterday, Pope Francis sent a letter to Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein and members of the Sovereign Council, emphasising the Sovereign Order of Malta’s special relationship with the Apostolic See. The Pope affirmed that the Lieutenant ad interim assumes responsibility over the Order’s government, in particular regarding relationships with other States. Readers will recall that in announcing Festing’s resignation, the Holy See had also informed of Francis’ intention to appoint a “papal delegate”. In the letter, the Pope clarified that his “papal delegate” would have the task of working “for the spiritual renewal of the Order, specifically of its professed members”.

    The Order’s statement denies outright that the Pope’s decisions have harmed the sovereignty of the Knights of Malta, as claimed by some in recent weeks who have poured fuel on the fire, trying to force a link between an internal issue affecting the Order and the controversy over the “dubia” which four cardinals presented in relation to the “Amoris Laetitia”.

    The Knights of Malta have not been placed under the administration of an external commissioner, a new Grand Matser is to be elected very soon and in accordance with the statutes, the Lieutenant ad interim is to hold temporary leadership of the Order. No decisions seem to be on the horizon regarding the role of cardinal patron Raymond Leo Burke, who played a frontline role in the whole affair, as was probably hoped by the portion of his supporters who thought he could be a political “martyr” of the pontificate.

    The Holy See took the very serious decision to ask Festing to resign, in light of the results of the inquiry conducted by the papal commission headed by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi. Evidently some serious proven facts emerged from the documents and testimonies collected, such as the innocence of the Grand Chancellor who had initially been ousted over the condom incident in Myanmar. For this reason, Francis decided to declare all acts produced by the Grand Master following Boeselager’s dismissal, void. Cardinal Burke had gone to meet Francis in person in order to obtain his approval of said dismissal.

    As far as the appointment of a special delegate is concerned, Pope Francis’ decision is yet to come. It looks likely that an impartial prelate will be chosen.

  9. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Rome, 29/01/2017

    Excellencies, dear members of the Order of Malta, dear volunteers, employees, friends and associates,

    On Saturday afternoon, 28 January 2017, the Sovereign Council accepted the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing from the office of Grand Master. We are grateful to Fra’ Matthew in his generous response to the request of the Holy Father to resign his position for the good of the Order of Malta. We appreciate the many good things he has done for our Order.

    We are also most grateful to the Holy Father and the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for their interest in and care for our Order. We will be pleased to work with the Delegate whom the Holy Father intends to appoint to consult with us. He will help to nurture and inspire the religious aspects of the Order, and possibly issues of reform that will need to be addressed after the forthcoming elections. We are grateful to the Holy Father for all his decisions so carefully taken with regard to and respect for the Order, with a determination to strengthen our Sovereignty. In this and all matters, we will not yield in our loyalty to the Pope. We are grateful to the members of the group appointed by the Holy Father. They have worked diligently during these recent weeks to advise His Holiness with integrity and in honesty.

    As Lieutenant ad interim, according to Art 17 § 1 of our Constitution, I am now charged with the duty of leading the Order, along with the Sovereign Council. Together with the Sovereign Council I will soon convene the Council Complete of State.

    I have annulled the decrees establishing disciplinary procedures against Albrecht Boeselager and the suspension of his membership in the Order. He will resume his office as Grand Chancellor immediately. There is no basis for any charges against him, and I commend him for respectfully insisting on the due application of our Constitution and Code.

    We call on all of you to work together in unity, to concentrate on executing our mission of tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum. We count on the good will of all to look to the future and to build an even stronger Order to tackle the material and spiritual needs of the world. We are thankful to all of you who fulfil this task every day, unceasingly. We know that for many of you at the Grand Magistry and around the world the last six weeks have been difficult. I thank you for your loyalty to our Order during this time.

    Together with my colleagues in the government of the Order we ask for your prayers, that the Holy Spirit may guide us to take the right decisions for the forthcoming elections and for the future.

    Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein
    Lieutenant ad interim

  10. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Pope’s takeover of Knights of Malta brings chance for needed reform
    Far from being an autocratic intervention in the affairs of a 'sovereign' state, the pope's decision to appoint a delegate to govern the Order of Malta following the resignation of its Grand Master reflects his duty of care to a Catholic organization in need of serious reform. Despite attempts to portray Francis as an autocrat, he's doing no more than what popes have always done for Catholic groups in similar circumstances.

    ROME - When it came, the skirmish was brief. Despite their aggressive shows of defiance, the rebels’ surrender was unconditional.

    Following a tense standoff between the leadership of the Knights of Malta and the Vatican, its Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, agreed to resign last week following a report by a papal commission that documents serious claims about dysfunction in his leadership.

    The report highlights the need for serious reform of the order’s tiny leadership clique, drawn from around 50 “professed” Knights, who take vows, and are traditionally drawn from noble European families.

    The pope named another of the senior knights, its Grand Commander, Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, as interim leader until his own legate was appointed.

    Some speculated that the order’s ruling Sovereign Council might reject Francis’s intervention. But when it met on Saturday, the council bowed to the need for the change.

    It accepted Festing’s resignation by a clear majority, agreed to appoint Rumerstein, and reinstated the former Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager. It was the sacking of Boeselager by Festing and the order’s chaplain, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, that sparked the Vatican intervention.

    Despite Festing earlier angrily claiming that the pope had no right to intervene in the Order of Malta because it was a “sovereign state,” the council’s statement rejected any such notion. Francis’s decisions were “carefully taken with regard to and respect for the order, with a determination to strengthen its sovereignty,” the council said.

    In its statement the order also pledged “full collaboration” with the to-be-named papal delegate, who will oversee “the spiritual renewal of the order, specifically of its professed members.”

    No mention was made of Burke, who was absent from Saturday’s meeting. The leader of an anti-Francis crusade from the start of the papacy, Burke was removed in 2014 as head of the Vatican’s supreme court, the Apostolic Signatura, because of his opposition to marriage annulment reform.

    He is also the prime mover behind a letter made public last November in which four cardinals challenged the pope over the orthodoxy of his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia.

    It was Burke’s attempt to use Pope Francis’s authority as part of an internal power-play by Festing in December to remove his rival Boeselager that prompted the papal putsch.

    Boeselager, who is a figurehead for the largely German-speaking knights, claimed that the firing was illegal and unconstitutional. His supporters described it as the latest of a series of dictatorial attempts by Festing to stifle criticism and consolidate his hold over the order.

    The German-speaking Knights have been growing more and more frustrated at the way needed changes were being blocked by Festing and his council, elected from the small group of professed members dominated by the English and Italians.

    The president of the order’s German Association, Erich Lobkowicz, has described the struggle as “a battle between all that Pope Francis stands for and a tiny clique of ultraconservative frilly old diehards in the Church - diehards that have missed the train in every conceivable respect.”

    Festing’s clique is known for its love of Old-Rite liturgies and suspicion of Pope Francis. The reformers want to focus on the Order’s humanitarian work among the poor, downplay the ceremonial pomp, and align the order more with Francis’s vision of an evangelizing, missionary Church.

    But Francis did not step in to try to shape the order in his own image but to curb what he calls “spiritual worldliness,” the use of the Church for self-interested purposes. It is the unhealthy nexus of interests - financial and ecclesiastical - that undermines the order’s good name.

    “The Germans want a much more legal and transparent operation,” an ambassador close to the German-speaking knights said. “They are worried that the good work is undermined by the scandals.”

    He offered an example. When Boeselager reportedly objected to the naming of two arms traders to senior positions, arguing that the appointments didn’t sit well with Pope Francis’s condemnation of the small-arms trade, Festing ignored him and named them anyway.

  11. David

    David Well-Known Member


    Critics also point to Festing’s failure of governance in his handling of a 2014 scandal in the UK, in which a pedophile companion of the Order was found guilty of possessing child pornography on video tapes. An inquiry led by Baroness Julia Cumberledge, who has chaired inquiries into the Church’s handling of abuse, uncovered a catalog of serious errors in dealing with the concerns.

    In a sign of Festing’s apparent obliviousness to the damage to the order of such scandals, one of the three knights criticized in her report, Duncan Gallie, was later appointed by the Grand Council and lives in Rome.

    The reformers have been especially incensed by Festing’s indulgence of the knights’ Italian branch, which has close connections to the wealthy and powerful order in Argentina. Both have long been linked to power plays in Italian politics and high finance, as well as to conservative networks in the Vatican.

    “Part of it is a wonderful humanitarian organization, but part of it is a mafia, pure and simple,” one observer close to the pope told Crux.

    Francis saw the second element first hand when he was the target of a ham-fisted attempt in 2008 by senior Knights to remove him as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and replace him with a bishop who was chaplain to the order in Argentina.

    A similarly incompetent attempt was made in November last year by Burke and Festing to remove Boeselager, whose criticisms of Festing’s leadership were an increasing irritation to the Englishman. Emboldened by Burke, Festing tried to sack Boeselager in early December on grounds of disobedience, after the German refused to stand down at the Englishman’s request.

    The grounds for his removal were manufactured by a militant traditionalist organization close to Burke, the Lepanto Institute for the Restoration of All Things in Christ, which describes itself on its website as “dedicated to the defense of the Catholic Church against assaults from without as well as from within.”

    It either offered or was commissioned by Burke to investigate allegations that Boeselager had approved the distribution of condoms while head of the order’s humanitarian arm years earlier. The issue had already been dealt with in an internal Order of Malta investigation the year before, which had cleared the German of any wrongdoing. The Vatican had also been informed at the time.

    Yet Lepanto’s president Michael Hichborn was told by Burke that he was “working on something” in response to his report.

    A few days later, Burke went to Francis. Knowing Festing could not dismiss such a senior figure without the pope’s backing - Boeselager is a major figure in Germany, close to the German bishops and to many high-level Vatican officials - Burke told Francis on November 10 about the report.

    In his letter that followed the meeting the pope made clear that Catholic moral precepts must be followed but that differences should be resolved through dialogue rather than expulsions.

    But the letter was used by Burke as a justification for sacking Boeselager against the pope’s express wishes. Accusing the German of being a “liberal Catholic,” Festing and Burke demanded he step down, and, when he refused, sacked him on grounds of disobedience.

    But it was Burke’s disobedience to the pope that was the real issue. Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, wrote twice to the American cardinal to make clear that the pope had approved no such action. He also made clear Boeselager should be reinstated, and any differences between them be resolved through dialogue.

    Egged on by Burke, who insisted the Vatican had no right to intervene in the order, Festing refused to budge. At this point the pope named a commission to investigate. In an astonishingly aggressive statement Festing tried to claim the inquiry had no legal validity, on the grounds that the Order of Malta - founded in the eleventh century - was a “sovereign state.”

    The argument was spurious. The order has international juridical personality and the trappings of a state (such as ambassadors and passports), but no territory beyond its palace on Rome’s most glitzy shopping street, the Via Condotti. Whatever its temporal status, it is also a lay religious institute whose members profess loyalty to the pope, and as such is subject - as are all recognized Catholic organizations - to the jurisdiction of the Holy See in religious matters.

    The sovereignty argument beggared belief, given that Burke’s attempt to use the pope to justify Festing’s sacking of Von Boeselager had dragged the papacy into its internal affairs.

    At this point, just before Christmas, the pope ordered a commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sacking, and to take evidence from the knights about wider issues connected with the order’s leadership.

    On Jan. 10 Festing pushed back, describing Boeselager’s dismissal as “an internal act of governance.” He poured scorn on the papal commission as “legally irrelevant” given the order’s sovereignty. He also ordered, under pain of obedience, that the knights back his decision to sack Boeselager - demanding, in effect, that the knights expressly reject the pope’s wishes.

    The Holy See calmly expressed its confidence in its investigative group, led by Italian Archbishop Sivano Tomasi, which continued to take evidence. In a statement, the Vatican said it was awaiting the outcome of the investigation “in order to adopt, within its area of competence, the most fitting decisions for the good of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and of the Church.”

    The evidence gathered by the pope’s commissioners left no doubt about the need for reform. On Tuesday last week, Festing was summoned by Francis and told of its contents. At the end of the meeting, Festing sat down and hand-wrote his resignation - the first Grand Master in centuries to stand down before his life term.

    Festing, who has had serious bouts of illness brought on in part by the stress of the internal disputes, “would have been relieved,” says one Vatican official who knows the former Grand Master. Sources say the aggressive statements from the Order were untypical of Festing, and were likely to have been drafted by Burke.

    Even after Festing had agreed to the pope’s request to resign, Burke tried to persuade him to retract, in effect telling him to keep fighting Francis, according to sources in both the Vatican and the order.

    The reaction from traditionalists and critics of the pope has been apopleptic, seeking to portray Francis as an autocrat imposing his vision of the Church on a hapless conservative order. In reality, he is doing no more than what popes have always done with Catholic organizations that suffer from abusive or dysfunctional leadership which undermines their witness.

    Francis has done the same with other religious orders or societies, such as the Peru-based Sodalitium. Benedict XVI did the same with the Legion of Christ, among others.

    Why should Francis’s critics believe this one is any different? Sadly, some have become so invested in Burke’s campaign against Francis over Amoris Laetitia that they have failed to spot what this is about.

    Francis has no intention of making Burke a martyr by sacking him, but in reality he doesn’t need to. The American canon lawyer is officially the Holy See’s liaison with the Order of the Malta, but the papal legate will in practice reduce that to a merely titular role.

    In his letter, Francis says his legate will be his “exclusive spokesman during his mandate” relating to relations between the Holy See and the order.

    But the main point of the intervention is not to silence Burke, but to reform the order’s constitution and governance so that it better serves the purposes for which it exists.

    Francis’s letter to the knights stresses that the unique character of the order as both a lay religious institute and a subject in international law should be the “basis for a more effective service according to its ancient yet ever relevant charism,” namely the defense of the faith and assistance to the poor.

    In other words, its legal autonomy is at the service of, and for the purpose of, its mission, and cannot be used for other purposes - the furtherance of business interests, say, or the defiance of papal authority by arch-traditionalists.

    Far from being like an invasion of one “country” by another, as some canonists have preposterously suggested, Francis’s intervention in the Order of Malta is the duty of care by a pope who does not want the Church’s witness to Christian mercy corrupted by privilege and spiritual worldliness.

  12. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Becciu named as Pope’s delegate to Order of Malta
    Senior Vatican figure given task of overseeing “renewal” of knights

    Archbishop Giovanni Becciu

    Pubblicato il 04/02/2017

    Pope Francis today appointed one of his top officials has pontifical delegate to the Knights of Malta giving him the task of overseeing a “spiritual and moral renewal” of the order.

    Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, who runs the general affairs section at the Secretariat of State, has been designated as Francis’ “sole spokesman” on matters to do with the knights, who have recently engaged in a bitter public dispute with the Vatican.

    A letter from the Pope asks the archbishop to focus on the fully professed knights who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. It is from this group - which numbers 55 out of a total of 13,500 - that the leader is drawn but there have been concerns about the quality of religious life.

    A crisis was sparked inside the Order of Malta following former the sacking by former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, of Albrecht von Boeselager, in a row about the distribution of condoms.

    This was backed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, the order’s patron, who along with Festing claimed it was the wish of the Holy See.

    But the Vatican had never requested the dismissal and therefore commissioned an investigation into the matter and which led to the resignation of Festing. The former Grand Master had also refused to co-operate with the Holy See’s inquiry on the grounds the knights were a sovereign entity although today’s letter from the Pope quotes the order’s constitution that members serve the “faith and the Holy Father.”

    An experienced papal diplomat, Archbishop Becciu will work closely with Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein, the interim leader of the order, in order to bring about the “greater good of the order” and to bring about greater harmony between its religious and lay components.

    Archbishop Becciu will effectively do the job that Cardinal Burke had been supposed to do as patron, whose task is to be the Pope’s representative to the order and be responsible for its spiritual well-being.

    Cardinal Burke remains in office but is not mentioned in today’s communique.

    According to the order’s constitution elections for a new Grand Master, who is elected for life, must take place within three months of a resignation or death. But it is possible for an interim leader to be elected and for him to hold office for a year.

  13. David

    David Well-Known Member

    21 February 2017 | by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
    Accusations of pope violating Order's sovereignty unfounded, says von Beoselager


    Cardinal Raymond Burke has now “de facto” been suspended as Patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta, according to Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager.

    In a long interview for the Cologne archdiocese’s website domradio.de on 19 February, von Boeselager explained that Archbishop Angelo Becciu, “who has the full confidence of the Pope and is his spokesman”, was now responsible. “That means that Cardinal Burke as Cardinal Patron of the Order is now de facto suspended.”

    The chief thing now was to restore peace in the Order so that it could concentrate on its real task, namely to promote and spread its worldwide aid projects, he added.

    Asked if donations had declined because of the turbulence, von Boeselager said the decline had “fortunately” only been slight.

    Questioned about how the crisis had come about, von Boeselager said that within the last “three or four years” the Grand Master [Matthew Festing] had become alienated from the Order’s government with the result that his [Festing’s] desired candidates had not been elected. “Others were put in important positions - and then the Grand Master tried to interfere and in my case force me out of office. Personality structures which I do not want to go into played a role”, von Boeselager said.

    Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Grand Master Festing last month, and announced that the governance of the order would be taken over by a papal delegate, who was named on 4 February as Archbishop Becciu, who as substitute at the Secretariat of State is the Vatican’s second top diplomat.

    When his interviewer recalled that certain circles had accused the Pope of violating the Order’s sovereignty, von Beoselager said, “That is a completely unfounded accusation in my opinion. First of all, the Holy Father did not become active on his own initiative. The reason given for the demand for me to step down was that that was the Holy Father’s wish – but that was not the case. It was a false allegation concerning the Holy Father and so he had to correct it. And then many members of the Order appealed to the Holy Father to act and put things right. Thus the Pope acted at the Order’s wish and he took great care that the Order’s sovereignty was in no way violated or impaired. He asked the Grand Master to step down, his resignation was carried out according to the Order’s regulations and was accepted. The appointment of the Holy Father’s delegate is expressly limited to the spiritual side of the Order and has nothing to do with its activities as a sovereign power.”

    Cardinal Burke's role as patron of the Order involved him acting as papal representative to the Knights. But the cardinal claimed that von Boeselager’s sacking was in accordance with the wishes of the Holy See, an assertion that was challenged by the Pope. Burke has denied that he invoked the Pope’s authority for the sacking.

  14. karnala

    karnala Well-Known Member

    Order of Malta joins Stand Together project to aid persecuted Christians

    Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta
    "We are joining because I think we need to have a high level of solidarity. We have been involved in this region of the Middle East for many years now and we have seen the transformation due to conflicts, despair, hatred, and at the end there are a number of Christians that are leaving. Even if we can provide jobs, good education... now children are leaving.”

    "Stand Together” unites aid organizations and media to spread the testimonies of persecuted Christians and show them that they are not alone.


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