Order of Malta leader resigns

What happened?

Pope Francis intervened in the Order of Malta, reorganising its leadership. Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing resigned at the Pope’s request, while the sacked Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager (number three) was reinstated. A “papal delegate” will effectively replace the Pope’s current representative, Cardinal Raymond Burke. Francis took action after a Vatican inquiry into the order. The knights had resisted the inquiry, on the grounds that the order is a sovereign entity.

What the newspapers said

In the Wall Street Journal, Sohrab Ahmari wrote: “The controversy sheds light on a papacy capable of ruthless politicking, a reality that belies Pope Francis’s reputation in the media for lenience and conviviality.” The Pope overstepped the boundaries of sovereignty, Ahmari said, only when Boeselager was dismissed for alleged failure to stop condom distribution. The Pope “humiliated a Catholic knight for upholding moral orthodoxy”.

In the Guardian, Joanna Moorhead said the real clash was between “rule-bound, traditional, unbending Catholicism”, represented by Fra’ Festing, and “what we might call instinctive Christianity”, represented by the Pope, for whom the major issues aren’t personal morality, but “Trump’s presidency, the refugee crisis and the war in Syria … That’s why the world loves him.”

What Catholic analysts said

John Allen was quoted by the Financial Times as saying: “It will be taken as an index of Francis’s determination not to be cowed by his critics, and not just when it comes to the Knights of Malta.”

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