Latest News

Pope Francis creates commission to investigate Order of Malta crisis

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Fra' Matthew Festing while he was still Grand Master (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, pool via Reuters)

Pope Francis has appointed a high-powered commission to investigate a sacking at the Order of Malta, a lay order founded in the 11th century.

The order’s grand chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, was forcibly ousted earlier this month after the Order of Malta said “an extremely grave and untenable situation” came to light. Italian daily Il Messaggero said the scandal concerned von Boeselager’s tenure as health minister and claims that he didn’t prevent the order’s workers in Africa from distributing condoms.

The order has not provided details, but said the scandal involved von Boeselager’s tenure as health minister and said he had concealed the problems until an internal investigation uncovered them last year.

The Pope named Fr Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a top Jesuit canon lawyer, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s former UN ambassador to Geneva and several senior Order of Malta members to “quickly inform the Holy See” about the scandal.

Calls to the Order of Malta seeking details were not immediately returned.

The scandal appears to have deeply divided the knights, who trace their history to the 11th century with the establishment of an infirmary in Jerusalem that cared for pilgrims to the Holy Land.

In a press release after von Boeselager’s ousting, the order appealed for members to not abandon ship and remain united.