Pope creates group to foster dialogue after ouster in Order of Malta

December 27, 2016


By Junno Arocho Esteves

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY – Following the forced resignation of the grand chancellor of the Order of Malta, Pope Francis has authorized the creation of a special working group to help foster dialogue and resolve any concerns.

“In his concern for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta,” the pope has decided to establish the group in order to collect the facts and “completely inform” the Holy See in a short period of time the situation and circumstances concerning the recent removal of Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, who was made grand chancellor in 2014, according to a Dec. 22 statement from the Vatican press office.

According to the order’s website, the German nobleman was removed “due to severe problems which occurred during Boeselager’s tenure as grand hospitaller of the Order of Malta and his subsequent concealment of these problems from the Grand Magistry.”

Despite requests to resign from the Order’s Grand Master, Matthew Festing, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, whom Pope Francis appointed as patron of the order in 2014, von Boeselager refused, resulting in his removal.

John E. Critien was elected grand chancellor ad interim Dec. 14, the order said.

Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Dec. 22 that the working group’s objective is to facilitate “dialogue” and “resolve things in a peaceful way.”

However, the Knights of Malta disputed the need for a group to look into the resignation saying that the decision was “an act of internal governmental administration” that “consequently falls solely within its competence.”

Adding that the decision to form a working group was due to a misunderstanding by the Secretariat of State, the Order said in a Dec. 23 statement that Festing clarified the situation in a letter sent to the pope and laid out “the reasons why the suggestions made by the Secretariat of State were unacceptable.”

The five members of the group are: Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, former Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva; Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University; Jacques de Liedekerke, former chancellor of the Order of Malta; Marc Odendall, counselor of the order; and Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Order of Malta in Lebanon.

Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz at the Vatican.

Copyright ©2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.