Vatican reverses: now allows former Knights of Malta head to attend successor’s election

Fra' Matthew Festing is not defying the pope, as originally reported.
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Claire Chretien By Claire Chretien

Claire Chretien By Claire Chretien

ROME, April 27, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Vatican reversed its request that the former head of the Knights of Malta "not come to Rome" during his successor's election, meaning he's not in defiance of the pope for doing so.

On Wednesday, news broke that Fra’ Matthew Festing, who resigned from leading the sovereign Order of Malta at the request of the Pope, was traveling to Rome for his successor's election despite papal instructions not to. The National Catholic Register's Ed Pentin then reported that the Vatican had "reconsidered" its "earlier instruction" to Festing. 

"According to sources within the order, Fra’ Festing will be coming to Rome to vote in the Saturday election partly because his absence as a professed knight would have invalidated the ballot," Pentin wrote.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, who is overseeing the order at the pope's request, told Festing on April 15, "Your presence [in Rome at the election] would reopen wounds, only recently healed, and would prevent the event taking place in an atmosphere of peace and regained harmony."

The election is on April 29.

When Festing was in charge of the order, Albrecht von Boeselager, another high-ranking official, was revealed to have overseen the distribution of contraceptives via the order's international charity. The Catholic Church teaches that the use of artificial contraception is intrinsically wrong. Von Boeselager was asked to step down but refused. Because he refused, he was removed from his post on the grounds that he violated his promise of obedience.

Then, Pope Francis asked Festing to resign and reinstated von Boeselager. Pope Francis appointed Becciu to run the order even though Cardinal Raymond Burke is still technically its "Cardinal Patron."

According to Pentin, Festing "remains very popular within the Order and could even be re-elected."

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