Francis creates Vatican commission to investigate Knights of Malta

Rome — Pope Francis has created a new Vatican commission to investigate the recent decision of the head of the Knights of Malta to fire one of the order's senior leaders, asking the commission members to report back "in short-order."

The commission is to investigate Knights of Malta Grand Master Matthew Festing's decision to fire the order's Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Boeselager. The decision has sparked open debates among Knights about whether Boeselager's firing was lawful or justified.

Boeselager says his firing was in violation of the Knights' constitution. As reported by The Tablet, the firing led several prominent members of the order to accuse Festing of causing a constitutional crisis within the order.

The Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta, as it is formally known, is a prestigious lay religious order that was founded at the end of the 11th century to defend the faith and assist the poor.

The Grand Master of the order is elected for life and is traditionally given a number of special honors, including having the precedence of a cardinal in church ceremonies and events. The spiritual patron of the order is U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke.

The five members of the new commission are: Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the former permanent observer of the Holy See to the U.N. in Geneva; Jesuit Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda; and laypeople Jacques de Liedekerke, Marc Odendall, and Marwan Sehnaoui.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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