By Deacon Nick Donnelly, EWTN.co.uk
The Sovereign Order of Malta has released a press statement announcing the resignation of Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, and expressing gratitude to Pope Francis & Card. Parolin “for their interest in & care for the Order”. The press statement goes on to express appreciation for Pope Francis’ decisions which it characterises as coming from the Holy Father’s “determination to strengthen its sovereignty”:
“The Sovereign Order of Malta is most grateful to Pope Francis and the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for their interest in and care for the Order. The Order appreciates that the Holy Father’s decisions were all carefully taken with regard to and respect for the Order, with a determination to strengthen its sovereignty.”
The statement was released following the meeting of The Sovereign Council, the government of the Sovereign Order of Malta, in Rome.
Though Pope Francis requested and received the resignation of Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing last Tuesday, the press statement makes no reference to this unprecedented action on the part of a pope, but instead states “the Pope has been notified of the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing.”
On the 25th January 2017, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin issued a letter declaring Pope Francis’ unilateral decision that that all actions taken by Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing and the Sovereign Council after December 6, 2016, to be null and void.
The Sovereign Council of the Sovereign Order of Malta’s press statement makes no reference to Pope Francis’ unilateral declaration but instead states that the Sovereign Council decided to annul the decrees issued by Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing and the Sovereign Council:
Subsequently, the Sovereign Council presided over by the Lieutenant ad interim annulled the decrees establishing the disciplinary procedures against Albrecht Boeselager and the suspension of his membership in the Order. Albrecht Boeselager resumes his office as Grand Chancellor immediately.
The Sovereign Order of Malta’s statement of appreciation for Pope Francis’s “determination to strengthen its sovereignty” is in marked contrast to previous statements issued during the crisis between the Order and the Holy See. In December 2016 the Grand Magistry of the Sovereign Order of Malta issued a statement making it clear that the Holy See did not have the authority to appoint a commission to investigate the replacement of the former Grand Chancellor. The Grand Magistry clearly saw the Holy See’s actions as an infringement on its long established sovereignty:
“The replacement of the former Grand Chancellor is an act of internal governmental administration of the Sovereign Order of Malta and consequently falls solely within its competence.”
On the 10th January 2017 the Order of Malta issued another statement protesting the Holy See’s investigation into its internal decisions:
“Thus, considering the legal irrelevance of this group and of its findings relating to the legal structure of the Order of Malta, the Order has decided that it should not cooperate with it.”