The sacking of a senior member of the Order of Malta has sparked a crisis at the heart of the Church’s oldest and most illustrious military order, according to The Tablet.
The dismissal has led senior members of the Order to accuse Festing of causing a constitutional crisis which could only be resolved with a specially arranged summit or an investigation by the Holy See.
A letter sent to Festing from the Procurator of the Grand Priory of Bohemia, a branch of the Knights based in Prague, said there would be “catastrophic repercussions” if the Grand Master were in breach of the Order’s rules.
The letter, seen by The Tablet, goes on to argue that the dismissal of Boeselager could "well damage the order significantly” and calls for an “Extraordinary Chapter General” meeting in order to resolve the problem.
The 11th century order was founded at the time of the Crusades when they were defenders of the Holy Land; today the Knights operate a global charitable network and as a sovereign entity have diplomatic relations with 102 countries, enjoying observer status at the United Nations.
Boeselager, a highly respected member of the Order, held the position of foreign minister equivalent and previously had been heavily involved in the Knight’s charity work.
Speaking to The Tablet, the Grand Master, who is only the second Englishman to hold the post, said the dismissal was now a “matter between the Holy See and the Order.”
The Order of Malta operates in 120 countries, employing tens of thousands of medical professionals and volunteers.
It is a lay order made up of knights, dames, and associated members but the most senior knights are quasi-monastic and celibate and known as “Fra,” an abbreviation of frater, meaning brother in Latin.