The Knights of Malta have rejected as “unacceptable” the plan by Pope Francis for a Vatican investigation into the dismissal of the chancellor of the ancient Catholic charitable order.
On December 23 the Order of Malta—which is recognized in
international law as a sovereign body, with its own independent
government—released a statement saying that the ouster of Albrecht von
Boeselager was an “act of internal governmental administration of the
Sovereign Order of Malta and consquently falls solely within its
The statement indicated that the Pope’s announcement of an
investigative committee was based on a “misunderstanding” by the Vatican
Secretariat of State.
“The Grand Master respectfully clarified the situation” in a letter
to Pope Francis, in which he “assured the Holy Father of his filial
devotion,” the statement continued.
Pope Francis had announced on December 22 that he was setting up a
special committee, chaired by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to look into
the controversy that arose within the Knights of Malta when von
Boeselager was forced out under protest.
Although the Order did not
offer a public explanation for the move, except to refer to an
“extremely grave and untenable situation,” it appears that the former
chancellor was ordered to resign because he had involved the Knights of
Malta in a scheme to distribute condoms in developing nations.
Any conflict between the Vatican and the Knights of Malta could
precipitate new tensions between Pope Francis and Cardinal Raymond
Burke, who is the patron of the Order of Malta, and reportedly approved
the decision to force out Boeselager.