This group will be expanded to include other members of the order on Jan. 25. On Jan. 26, Tomasi is expected to distribute the draft of the constitution to a larger group of members, including presidents of national associations and professed knights.
The Italian cardinal will then call a General Chapter to discuss and finalize the proposed documents a few days after.
Tomasi has assured the order’s leaders that the text can be changed and is not definitive. But there is little time for the expanded working group to study the draft and propose amendments.
As the Grand Chancellor, Boeselager would be part of the expanded working group. But he has renounced that responsibility and, at his suggestion, Marwan Senahoui, president of the order’s Lebanese association, is taking his place. Senahoui will be assisted by Péter Szabadhegÿ.
Senahoui was asked by Fra’ Matthew Festing to resolve a crisis among the order’s members in England a few years ago. He was also part of the Tomasi-led commission appointed by the pope at the end of 2016 to look into the crisis in the order.
Why did Boeselager step aside? The reasons are in the letter delivered on Jan. 19. Boeselager said that he had been reviewing for the first time the draft texts of the new constitution and code as proposed by Tomasi, and stressed that “both the indicated process and draft content create significant constitutional challenges for our order, and I would have serious difficulties to accept them in good conscience.”
Boeselager lamented that the whole process “is not in accordance with the confirmations given to us by the special delegate that the Holy Father does not wish to put our sovereignty at risk.”
He added that he would “normally use the conventional channels between sovereign entities to voice this objection respectfully, but that avenue has been closed to me.”
Boeselager also blamed “certain groups” within the organization for accusing him of seeking to secularize the order and turn it into an NGO – an allegation he strongly rejected.
He added that he was not going to let a personal reputational issue “get in the way of preventing a detrimental outcome for the order.”
He said that he also understood that combining the task of managing the constitutional reform with his daily work would not be effective. For this reason, he wrote, he had decided not to join the working group, but would be available for consultation.
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Boeselager’s letter indicates that the order is not going to give up its sovereignty easily and that, despite Pope Francis’ intervention, the debate remains intense.
It also suggests that the reform, as presented until now, may not be accepted by a majority of knights and dames, making the reform potentially ineffective and harmful for the order’s future existence.