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Former Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing with Pope Francis.
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Pope’s delegate orders former head of Knights of Malta to miss successor’s election

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ROME, April 18, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- Pope Francis' special delegate overseeing the Knights of Malta has ordered its former leader, under obedience, to stay away from his successor's election.

On April 15, Archbishop Angelo Becciu wrote to Fra’ Matthew Festing, the former Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, telling him to “not come to Rome” for the April 29 election.

Festing was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his position in January after he had dismissed a fellow Knight who was involved in a scandal of distributing contraception. The pope’s involvement came as a surprise given the order’s sovereign status. Then, in another surprise move, Francis reinstated and promoted the dismissed official while revoking Festing’s decisions from the previous weeks. 

Archbishop Becciu told Festing, “Your presence would reopen wounds, only recently healed, and would prevent the event taking place in an atmosphere of peace and regained harmony." 

Becciu told Festing that he had “shared the decision with the Holy Father,” stating that he should forego his trip to Rome “as an act of obedience.”

But while Becciu told Festing that “many have expressed their wish that you not come to Rome,” sources inside the order told National Catholic Register’s Ed Pentin that Festing remains very popular within the Order and could even be re-elected. 

“They claim this move is therefore an attempt by some who wish to take the Order in a distinctly new direction to keep Fra’ Festing from having any influence in the upcoming election,” Pentin wrote.

Faithful Catholics had looked at Festing’s dismissal of the condom-promoting official as the order beginning to clean house under Cardinal Burke’s watch. Burke had been appointed the order’s patron by Pope Francis. 

But the imbroglio of dismissing the condom promoting official spilled over to Burke. Pope Francis stripped Burke of his function, but not title, as the order’s patron. The pope then appointed Becciu as his delegate to the order. 

When asked last week in an interview with InfoVaticana if the crisis of the Order of Malta is over, Burke replied that it was a “difficult question to answer.”

“For the moment, I am completely removed from any involvement with the Order of Malta. While I retain the title of the Cardinal Patron, the Pope has made clear that the only person who can treat questions of the Order of Malta in the name of the Holy Father is Archbishop Becciu. So I don’t know.”

He then commented on the upcoming election.

“In April there should be an election of a new Grand Master, and it is my hope that an outstanding leader would be chosen from among the professed Knights who could begin to reconcile things and lead the Order in a correct direction. The Holy Father made clear to me in his letter of December 1st of last year the very serious concerns he has for the Order of Malta. Those concerns are certainly justified in my judgement, and the new leadership will have to address those concerns,” he said. 

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