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Tensions mount as Knights of Malta face vote for new leader

April 26, 2017

Leaders of the Knights of Malta have recommended that members select an interim leader, as the date for the election of a new grand master approaches.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, named by Pope Francis as a special delegate to supervise changes in the Knights of Malta, has summoned 15 top leaders of the Order to the Vatican a meeting on April 27. Underlining the importance of the session, Pope Francis is also expected to attend the meeting, which will take place on the eve of his trip to Egypt. The vote for a new grand master will be held on April 29.

Meanwhile Fra Matthew Festing, who resigned as grand master in January at the Pope’s request, has reportedly announced that he will travel to Rome to participate in the vote, this time rejecting a request from the Pontiff. Archbishop Becciu had written to Festing, telling him that the Pope did not want him to attend the election. The former grand master would be eligible as a candidate for re-election.

Earlier this week, the members of the Knights of Malta who are eligible to vote in the Saturday election received an email message from the group’s current leaders, suggesting that an interim leader should be elected, with a final election of a new grand master to follow only after changes have been made in the constitution of the Order.

In yet another indication of turmoil within the Order, the Catholic Herald of London published a leaked internal report finding that Malteser International, a charitable group affiliated with the Knights of Malta, had indeed been involved in the distribution of contraceptives. The report—which was widely circulated among members of the Order—found that the group’s chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, became aware of the distribution of contraceptives in 2013, but did not inform the leaders of the Order. The report also said that Malteser International had established its own principles on bioethical questions, which were “inconsistent with the Church’s teaching.”

In part because of the involvement with contraceptives, Boeselager was ousted from his post as chancellor by Festing. Pope Francis intervened to demand Festing’s resignation and restore Boeselager to his former position.


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  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Apr. 27, 2017 1:13 AM ET USA

    These days it appears to be easy to be more Catholic than the Pope!