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Pope Francis revokes all of Grand Master’s actions since December 6

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Fra' Matthew Festing, the 79th prince and grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, during a private audience at the Vatican (CNS)

Pope Francis has revoked all decisions taken by the Grand Master of the Order of Malta after December 6, the day when Albrecht von Boeselager was dismissed.

The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has written to the Order’s Sovereign Council, telling them of the decision. It is not clear whether this automatically reinstates Boeselager as the Order’s Grand Chancellor (number three).

The Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, resigned earlier this week at Pope Francis’s request. A papal delegate will now be appointed, with powers over the Order granted by the Pope.

Boeselager, the Grand Chancellor (number three) of the Order, was fired over allegations of misconduct, some relating to the distribution of condoms under his watch. Boeselager denied any wrongdoing.

Fra’ Festing asked for Boeselager’s resignation twice, the second time under Boeselager’s promise of obedience. After Boeselagrer refused, he was dismissed and replaced by John Chretien.

Soon afterwards, Cardinal Parolin expressed his and the Pope’s dissatisfaction. Cardinal Parolin launched a commission to investigate.

Fra’ Festing, citing the Order’s sovereign status and independence from the Holy See, asked members of the Order not to co-operate with the inquiry. It has since reported to the Pope, who asked for Fra’ Festing’s resignation.

The National Catholic Register has translated Cardinal Parolin’s letter to the Sovereign Council as follows:

Distinguished Members of the Sovereign Council,

I wish to inform you that H.M.E.H. Fra’ Matthew Festing, Grand Master of the Order, on January 24, 2017, tendered his resignation to His Holiness, Pope Francis, who accepted it.

As the Order’s Constitution provides in Art. 17 § 1, the Grand Commander will assume the responsibility of governance ad interim. Pursuant to Art. 143 of the Order’s Code, he will inform Heads of State with which the Order maintains diplomatic relations and the various organisations belonging to the Order.

To help the Order in the renewal process which is seen as necessary, the Holy Father will appoint his personal Delegate with powers that he will define in the act of appointing him.

The Grand Commander, in his role as Interim Lieutenant, will exercise the powers contained in Art. 144 of the Order’s Statute until the Papal Delegate is appointed.

The Holy Father, on the basis of evidence that has emerged from information he has gathered, has determined that all actions taken by the Grand Master after December 6, 2016, are null and void. The same is true for those of the Sovereign Council, such as the election of the Grand Chancellor ad interim.

The Holy Father, recognising the great merits of the Order in carrying out many works in defence of the faith, and in service to the poor and the sick, expresses his pastoral concern for the Order and hopes for the collaboration of all in this sensitive and important moment for the future.

The Holy Father blesses all members, volunteers and benefactors of the Order and supports them with his prayers.