As the Sovereign Military Order of Malta accepted Pope Francis’ intervention in their governance, the pope urged members to follow a path of renewal as they prepare to elect a new grand master.
In accordance with the pope’s wishes, the governing council of the order accepted the resignation of Fra Matthew Festing as grand master on 28th January and appointed Fra Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein to temporarily lead the chivalric order.
By ‘putting aside personal interests and dangerous ambitions,’ members, volunteers and benefactors of the order can better dedicate themselves to the ‘noble and proven mission’ of defending the faith and serving the poor, the pope wrote in a letter, dated 27th January, to von Rumerstein, lieutenant ad interim of the order.
‘The witness of an authentic Christian life makes accompanying the sick more accepted and effective, and charity toward the poor and vulnerable people of society more fraternal,’ the pope wrote.
The Knights of Malta have 13,500 members, as well as 80,000 volunteers and 25,000 medical professionals providing relief and humanitarian aid in 120 countries.
Festing offered his resignation on 24th January at the behest of Pope Francis, who had established a commission to investigate his removal of the order’s grand chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.
Festing refused to cooperate with the investigation and insisted the firing was a sovereign act outside the Vatican’s jurisdiction, although the knights take a vow of obedience to the pope.
Pope Francis said he would appoint a special delegate who – in close collaboration with von Rumerstein – will ‘specifically take care of the spiritual and moral renewal of the order,’ especially the 50 or so members who have taken religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
‘The special delegate will have the task of being my exclusive spokesman during the period of your mandate for all that relates to the relationship of the order with the Holy See,’ the pope wrote.
Picture: Pope Francis prays with Fra Matthew Festing, (fourth from left), then-grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager (third from left), then-grand chancellor of the order, during a private audience with members of the order at the Vatican in this 23rd June 2016, file photo. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella, pool).