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Vatican rejects Order of Malta’s criticism of investigation

Fra’ Matthew Festing at the Order of Malta's traditional new year audience (Order of Malta)

The Vatican is striking back at the Order of Malta, rejecting attempts to discredit its commission investigating the ousting of a top official of the ancient Catholic lay order.

In a sharply worded statement released on Tuesday, the Holy See said it “reaffirms its confidence” in the commission appointed last month by Pope Francis to report on the “present crisis of the central direction” of the order.

The statement added that the Vatican “counts on the complete cooperation of all in this sensitive stage” — a reference to the order’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation on grounds of its sovereign status.

The order’s leader suspended Albrecht von Boeselager as grand chancellor over a condom distribution scandal involving the order’s charity branch.

The order’s leader Fra’ Matthew Festing sent a letter to members on January 14 in which he said he was only protecting the order’s sovereignty in refusing to cooperate with the Vatican commission.