Pope Francis has announced an investigation into the Knights of Malta, Catholicism’s oldest and most illustrious military order currently in the midst of an internal crisis after a senior figure was sacked.
Retired papal diplomat Archbishop Silvano Tomasi is to look at the dismissal of Albrecht von Boeselager, the Order’s number three who was dramatically sacked by the Grand Master, Matthew Festing.
Boeselager, a respected member of the Order, was twice ordered to resign by Festing in a row allegedly about the distribution of condoms.
After he refused to step down, Festing dismissed him but Boeselager’s supporters say the sacking was in breach of the Knights' rules and are accusing the Grand Master of sparking a constitutional crisis.
Festing has hit back, denying the claims and arguing that Boeselager behaved in a “disgraceful” way. He threatened to discipline any Knight questioning his decision.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is patron of the Order and its link man with the Holy See, had become involved in the saga, but by announcing the inquiry today the Pope has taken power out of the Cardinal’s hands and put it into those investigating the Knights.
Along with Archbishop Tomasi these include Fr Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a Jesuit priest and former rector of the Gregorian University; investment banker Marc Odendall who sits on a Vatican financial board; Marwan Sehnaoui, a senior knight from the Lebanon; and Belgian lawyer Jacques de Liedekerke, who is also a member of the Order.
Boeselager, who held the position of Grand Chancellor in the Knights, comes from a prominent German family: his father was part of the Valkyrie plot to kill Hitler while his brother has been named as a member of the board overseeing the Vatican bank.
Photo - Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing