Alea jacta est, the die is cast… In a decree made public on September 3, 2022 by the Press Room of the Holy See, the Sovereign Pontiff decided to cut to the chase as the crisis drags on regarding the Order of Malta.
On August 26, a few days before the papal decree, Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Lebanese association of knights, sent an alarming letter, alluding to an order “on the verge of disintegration, breakup, even dissolution.”
The heart of the debate on the reform lies in the future role in the direction of the Order of professed knights, that is, those who make the three religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Pope Francis and his special delegate – Cardinal Silvano Tomasi – from the start have wanted to give a leading role to these religious knights, with the stated aim of strengthening the spiritual aspect of the Order, even if it means losing a part of its sovereignty, since as religious, the professed must answer for their acts before their hierarchical superiors.
This situation seems unthinkable for Marwan Sehnaoui, a close to the representative of the powerful German branch of the Order, the Grand Chancellor Albrecht bon Boeselager, who could see a large portion of his power taken from him.
“The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta…being a religious order, it depends, in its various articulations, on the Holy See,” declares Pope Francis, in an ex abrupto which appears to quell certain German ambitions.
The Holy Father seems to want to sound the end of recreation time: “Many measures have been taken, but as many obstacles and difficulties have been encountered along the way,” emphasizes Francis for whom “the time has come to carry out the process of renewal begun in fidelity to the original charism.”
Also, “to protect the unity and the greater good of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta,” the Sovereign Pontiff has decided to promulgate the new Constitution of the Order with immediate entry into force, decreeing in passing the dissolution of the current Sovereign Council and the constitution of a provisional Sovereign Council, emptied of opponents to the reform. Thus, Albrecht von Boeselager finds himself dismissed from his functions as Grand Chancellor.
Pope Francis has decided to convene an extraordinary General Chapter on January 25, 2023, which will be prepared by Cardinal Silvano Tomasi and the knights committed to the cause of reform.