The Holy See then intervened, establishing a committee to investigate the decision. When the Order refused to cooperate with the argument that the decision to dismiss Boeselager was an “internal act of governance” and therefore the Holy See’s investigative group was “legally irrelevant” given the Order’s sovereignty, the Holy See responded Jan. 17 by reiterating its confidence in the group and its work.
Shortly after that Festing was called in for a private meeting with the Pope and was asked to resign. Three days later the Order’s Sovereign council voted to accept Festing’s resignation and named Grand Commander Fra' Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein as “lieutenant ad interim” until a new Grand Master is elected.
Boeselager, whose brother Georg von Boeselager was appointed a member of the Board of Superintendents of the IOR Dec. 15, was also reinstated as Grand Chancellor.
In a letter to Rumerstein and members of the Sovereign Council, the Pope said he would eventually be appointing a special delegate to oversee “spiritual renewal of the Order, specifically of its professed members.”
The “Council Complete of State” to elect a new Grand Master must be held within three months of the former’s resignation or death. Though no dates have yet been set, the council is expected to take place in late April.
After what has turned out to be a tumultuous month and a half for the Knights, Boeselager reiterated six key priorities for the Order moving forward.
The number one priority is that the Order “has the government in place that is restoring leadership in line with the constitutions.”
This has happened, he said, noting that while the Order is “unique in the world” given its status as a Catholic lay order, a sovereign entity, and a humanitarian institution all at once, “as recent weeks have shown, we are not immune when it comes to having a crisis in our government.”
He offered his gratitude to Festing for accepting the Pope’s proposal to resign, saying, “this has put the elective government of the Order back in a position where it can step up to its constitutional responsibilities and govern.”
“We are now working to reassure our members and to restore normality in the way we function,” he said, highlighting loyalty to the Holy Father as a second key priority for the Knights.
“Let me reassure our members, and everybody, that the government is and will remain as a service of the Holy Father,” he said, stressing that their devotion to Church teaching “is irrevocable and beyond question.”
The crisis the Order underwent “was a government crisis brought about by an act illegal under the constitution,” he said, voicing his gratitude to the Pope for offering guidance that led “to a swift solution.”
Pointing to allegations that the group investigating the Order on the part of the Holy See had a “conflict of interest” due to links between certain group members to a fund in Geneva, Boeselager said he regrets the accusations, calling them “baseless and unfounded.”
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“We look forward to cooperating with the special delegate the Pope will appoint,” he said, voicing the Order’s full willingness to cooperate.
A third key priority the Grand Chancellor voiced is to keep the Order’s humanitarian and socio-medial work “at the center” of the government’s activity, saying the crisis in the Middle East and the Mediterranean are proof that their work “has never been more relevant and needed.”
He insisted that despite their current crisis, the Order “will not allow the recent distractions in the government of the order to jeopardize our humanitarian and social work.”
Pointing to a fourth priority for the Order, Boeselager said they intend to strengthen their diplomatic engagement, since their sovereignty and diplomatic network “play a vital role in the Order’s ability to serve peoples in need and is an asset to the Catholic Church.”
Boeselager said the Order also intends to place a strong emphasis on addressing the needs of migrants and refugees, and plans to “scale up projects” in needy areas.
“The priority for the order of Malta is to continue unabated its many humanitarian projects in over 20 countries worldwide,” he said, noting that “the needs of migrants and refugees has never been greater.”