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Pope stresses Order of Malta’s sovereignty as Grand Master’s resignation is confirmed

Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti's wife asked the Pope to 'speak up' (CNS)

The Knights of Malta say Pope Francis has written to their leaders stressing the sovereignty of the ancient Catholic lay order, following the Vatican’s intervention in the order. The Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, has resigned at Pope Francis’s request. The order’s Sovereign Council in Rome today accepted his resignation, with “a handful” of votes against (out of at most 10), and a papal delegate will soon be appointed to run the Order.

Fra’ Festing had dismissed the order’s foreign minister, Albrecht von Boeselager. The minister was removed as grand chancellor following allegations of misconduct, some relating to the distribution of condoms under his watch. Boeselager denied all wrongdoing.

The Vatican intervened on the minister’s behalf. On Saturday, the council scrapped the disciplinary measures against von Boeselager, who resumes his post. The Knights say Francis wrote to them on Friday, stressing the order’s sovereignty.

Until Festing’s successor is elected, previous Grand Commander (number 2) Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein serves as its interim leader.