In two letters addressed to Pope Francis, several senior officials of the Order of Malta and 13 of the 48 national associations affiliated with it, denounce the ongoing reforms desired by Rome, and point a finger at the role played by the Holy Father’s special delegate to the Order. At the helm: the German wing of the knights who view the reform as a notable loss of their influence, hitherto preponderant.
As if the Roman heat wave were not enough, a new heat wave has hit St. Martha’s House, on August 12, 2022: the president of the German association of the Sovereign Order of Malta and several of his counterparts - European for the most – have taken up the pen to denounce the reform project finalized by Cardinal Silvano Tomasi, special delegate of the Holy Father to the Order.
The signatories describe to the Roman pontiff an apocalyptic scenario in the event of the implementation of the project, announcing nothing more or less than a danger to the humanitarian activities carried out by the Order: an argument that was probably not chosen at random, when we consider the social and “pastoral” accent of the current pontificate.
In addition, the thirteen presidents, aware of being in the minority, take care to specify that they would represent “90% of the work carried out by the Order in the world.” The Italian and American national associations, which have not signed the petition, and which together account for 60% of the active members of the Order, will appreciate…
In their letters, the Knights also denounce what they consider to be an “arbitrary interference” by Cardinal Tomasi, even though last October Pope Francis himself clearly established the fact that the special delegate to the Order enjoyed “the all the necessary powers to settle any question that may arise in the context of its mission.”
But that's not all: at the same time, a second missive arrived on the desk of the Argentine pope, denouncing the action of Cardinal Tomasi. It was signed by several members of the Council of Government, a body created in 1999 by the General Chapter, and which was not provided for by the 1961 constitutional charter revised in 1997.
These latest events illustrate the standoff between Rome and the German wing of the knights, represented by the current Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager. They take a dim view of the reform of the Order piloted directly from St. Martha’s House.
And for good reason, by putting the professed knights back at the heart of the governance of the Order, on the pretext of rediscovering the religious identity of the Order, the reform piloted by Cardinal Tomasi in the name of the sovereign pontiff, if it were promulgated, would diminish the influence of the German knights, an influence as preponderant as it was discreet, for some twenty years already.
For its part, the German wing defends another reform project aimed at marginalizing the role of the professed in the government of the Order, in favor of a method of representation founded on the basis of the budget allocated to the associations: in summary, the richer a national association, the greater its power. However, the German association is – by far – the best equipped in this area.