[The Grand Master blinked in the showdown with FrankenPope. Will the ex-Grand Chancellor be the next Grand Master?]
Steve Skojec January 24, 2017
It would seem that Malta has become the battleground where some of the deepest divisions in the Church have been playing out. From Cardinal Burke’s exile to the role of Patronus of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the landmark Maltese bishops’ guidelines on Amoris Laetitia to the battle that’s been going on between the order and Rome after the Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Malta, Albrecht Boeselager, was forced out following the revelation of his involvement in the distribution of condoms, it seems to be one thing after another in news related to the tiny Mediterranean island nation.
But now, the “knights who won’t retreat” have done exactly this, with the order’s Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, having resigned his post today at the request of Pope Francis. The position of Grand Master is for life, making this move — especially after the order’s strong statement of resistance to a Vatican inquiry — very strange.
The official website of the order does not yet have the announcement in their news section, and the report from the Spanish-language website InfoVaticana is notably sparse, consisting mostly of background, with the exception of the following sentence:
According to what InfoVaticana has heard, Pope Francis has asked him to offer his resignation.
This entire episode with the Order of Malta has been, I must admit, incredibly hard to follow for the casual observer. I do not expect it to be made much clearer following this unexpected news.
POSTSCRIPT: I know the order has been, following the loss of Malta in 1800, based in Rome, but it retains its title for a reason. I note the connection between what is happening in Malta proper and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta because it seems, at least to me, more than just a coincidence.