To some, the interdict brought down by the pope on the former Grand Master of the Order of Malta, Fra' Matthew Festing, seemed to be going too far. To others, not far enough.
The fact is that for 7pm on Thursday, April 27, on the eve of his journey to Egypt, Francis has convened at Casa Santa Marta a hefty representation of the members of the Order who have come to Rome to appoint their new superior general. To be exact, the following fifteen:
- Fra' Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, Grand Commander and Lieutenant ad interim;
- Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, Grand Chancellor;
- Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, Grand Hospitaller;
- János Esterházy de Galántha, Receiver of the Common Treasure;
- Erich Prinz von Lobkowicz, President of the Association of German Knights;
- Marwan Sehnaoui, President of the Association of Lebanese Knights;
- Jaime Churruca y Azlor de Aragón, President of the Association of Spanish Knights;
- Thierry de Beaumont-Beynac, President of the Association of French Knights;
- Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre Del Tempio di Sanguinetto, Grand Prior of Rome;
- Fra Luigi Naselli di Gela, Grand Prior of Naples and Sicily;
- Clemente Riva di Sanseverino, Grand Prior Delegate for eastern Emilia and Romagna;
- Fra Ian Scott, Grand Prior of England;
- Fra Emmanuel Rousseau, member of the Sovereign Council;
- Jack E. Pohrer, of the American Association;
- Mons. Fra Giovanni Scarabelli, Professed Conventual Chaplain.
Properly speaking, the one who called the fifteen to the Vatican was substitute secretary of state Angelo Becciu, who since February 4 has been the popes special delegate to the order, endowed with full powers. But in addition to him, it has been announced that Francis will meet with them too.
The reason adopted in justification of the meeting is the one already indicated in the letter from Becciu to the members of the Order of last April 15: so that the event, meaning the election of the new superior general, may take place in an atmosphere of peace and of restored harmony.
And this is the same reason with which Becciu, in the name of the pope, justified the obligation imposed on Festing not to take part in the upcoming conclave of the Order, which will open on April 29, and not even to be present in Rome during the days of the event.
This unheard-of prohibition of the former Grand Master - already forced to resign by the pope in person on January 24 - had raised understandable dismay among the Knights of Malta. To some it had seemed an unprecedented abuse of power. To others, even among Festings opponents, an excessive action that therefore required a further act of correction and pacification on the part of the Vatican authorities.
And this is precisely what is said to be the aim of the meeting with the pope on April 27. Except that, once again, this convocation has rekindled the conflicts among the Knights, instead of appeasing them. Not a few judge it as a mistimed and miscalibrated step, an undue form of pressure - exercised by none other than the pope - aimed at influencing the imminent election of Festings successor.
An election that will probably not result in the appointment of a new Grand Master, but only of a lieutenant ad interim, who could be the one who is already covering that role temporarily, the eighty-year-old Grand Commander Fra Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, or the current Grand Prior of Rome, Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre Del Tempio di Sanguinetto.
The lieutenant would remain in office for a year, during which time the statutes should be reformed.
According to the current constitutions of the order, in fact, the Grand Master can be elected only from among the professed members, with the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, a prerequisite that today is met by only 55 members of the order, out of 13,000.
Moreover, the Grand Master should have inherited noble blood from all four of his grandparents, which would reduce the list of the electable to only 12 Knights, one of whom is 97 years old.
The reform of the statutes should strike down these and other limitations.
But as is known, the conflict within the Order of Malta has much deeper and more serious causes. Not the least of which is the unresolved question of those mysterious 30 million euros that Settimo Cielo has covered.
The previous posts of this year on the saga of the Knights of Malta:
January 25, 2017
> Between Rome and Malta, Great Is the Disorder Under Heaven
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)