The resignation of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing, was provoked by the false invocation, by the latter, of an order issued by the Holy Father.
This was clarified yesterday by a source close to the Lebanese
Knights of the Order of Malta, in Beirut. To remove the Grand Chancellor
(Treasurer) from office, the Grand Master stated that his resignation
had been "imposed by the Holy Father." Something that was entirely
After the news was made public, Pope Francis was forced to counter
this argument made in his name with an official denial. At the same
time, the pontiff announced the appointment of a commission of five
members to clarify the matter. These include the president of the
Lebanese Order of Malta, Marwan Sehnaoui.
According to the source quoted above, the exception of "sovereignty"
raised by former Grand Master to oppose the appointment of a commission
of inquiry is inadmissible. There is no interference, the source added,
in the sovereignty of the Order in this matter. This is a matter of a
disciplinary nature. The Pope would never have become involved if the
Grand Master had not lied to the Chancellor ensuring him that the Pope
had called for his resignation.
The source continues that "it is unthinkable to say that the
sovereign Order of Malta, as an institution of pontifical nature and
whose constitution is approved by the Holy See, can go against the Pope.
Instead, the Order has always been and will always be faithful to Papal
"In the context of the latest crisis - adds the same
source - only a few prominent personalities and in the minority in the
Order, including the Grand Master, were opposed to the Holy Father's
decision to appoint a commission".
"That in itself, moreover, that the
spiritual reform of the Order promoted by the Pope is in line with the
general project of the pastoral renewal of the Church. It is not an
attack on its sovereignty. The authors of anonymous billboards that make
fun of the Pope, placed on the streets of Rome, should in no case be
related, in the public eye, to the Order".
Finally, it is important to stress that the true face of the Order is
independent of the fate of some of its members. The humanitarian needs
which it meets far outweigh the individual financial capabilities; the
Order lives exclusively from donations, and these come both from private
individuals and from public associations. Its agenda is the protection
of human dignity - without the slightest discrimination of racial,
ethnic, political or religious nature- through its works, to serve the
poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, refugees in the spirit of
The Order of Malta's humanitarian activities are carried out in 120
countries worldwide. This network of institutions is based on the
services of about 100 thousand people, including volunteers and
professional workers in the health sector.
Of the three great orders of chivalry only the order of St. John of
Jerusalem, founded in 1048, and now known as the Sovereign Order of
Malta, has been able to adapt to the times and circumstances, returning
to its original function: the practice of Christian charity through the
works of assistance. In fact, some say the Order of Malta is a precursor
of the Red Cross and is the oldest humanitarian institution in the
Today it fulfills this vocation thanks to its care facilities all
over the world and, secondly, through the mobile medical units (bus,
train and air ambulances) to bring relief to victims of disasters and
populations involved in conflicts .
Obviously, the Order of Malta is a
subject of international law on the basis of a decree (the papal bull)
and whose prerogatives, privileges and honors are mostly nominal.
Moreover, this "sovereign" order has neither state nor citizens, nor
territory, but emits stamps and can also print money.
affirming its sovereign character in the first article of its charter -
the current founding charter was approved in 1936 - it remains as a
Catholic religious order under the spiritual authority of the Holy See.