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Published: Fri, January 27, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Pope axes Knights of Malta chief

Pope axes Knights of Malta chief

The meeting is set for Saturday.

The statement said the order's governance would shift temporarily to the order's No 2 "pending the appointment of the papal delegate".

The Sovereign Order of Malta traces its history to the 11th Century, with the establishment of an infirmary in Jerusalem that cared for pilgrims of all faiths.

ROME-The Vatican said Wednesday it was in effect taking control of the Catholic Church's oldest and largest chivalric order, following an extraordinary struggle with Pope Francis that reflects broader tensions between the church's liberal and conservative wings.

The Grand Master of the Knights of Malta has resigned after a dispute between the Order and the Holy See.

The order's communications office confirmed January 25 that Fra Matthew Festing, the 67-year-old grand master, met with Pope Francis the day before and agreed to resign.

Pope Francis has struck a blow for "reform" within the Catholic Church by weighing in on the side of the progressives against the traditionalists in a "condom row" involving the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

"The Grand Master was received on Tuesday by Pope Francis who requested his resignation, which the Grand Master agreed to", a spokesman for the Order told French press agency AFP.

Image Pope Francis meets Robert Festing in this June 2016 file
Pope Francis meets Robert Festing in this June 2016 file

The dispute between Pope Francis and the order's Grand Master Matthew Festing broke out following the ousting of the order's Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager last month.

Festing publicly refused to cooperate with the Pope's investigation, saying the Knights of Malta are not under the jurisdiction of the Vatican. Grand Masters usually hold their position for life, prompting some to speculate that this week's events represent something of a Vatican takeover.

The order said it had been an attempt to discredit members of the commission, but the Vatican ordered and ordered the leaders of the Knights of Malta to cooperate with the inquiry.

Boeselager protested the charges, and argued against the manner of his dismissal, which he said happened in the presence of Cardinal Raymond Burke, an arch-conservative critic of the Pope.

But Mr Festing's defiance had been fraught from the start, given that he took a promise of obedience to the pope as a top-level knight, and regardless was the leader of a prominent Catholic order who was entering into a public fray with the leader of the Catholic Church.

The Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta is an worldwide aid agency with 13,500 members, 25,000 employees and 80,000 lay volunteers who provide health care and development aid in non-emergency situations around the world.

The order also enjoys some of the trappings of a sovereign state, since it issues its own, stamps and passports, whilst it maintains diplomatic relations with 106 states, Holy See included, as well as enjoying permanent observer status at the United Nations.

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