The Vatican has confirmed the resignation of Matthew Festing as Grand Master of the Order of Malta, a decision that will take effect on Saturday January 28.
The pope met with him Tuesday and asked him to resign to facilitate a solution to the internal crisis of the Order. Matthew Festing accepted his request.
With this statement, Pope Francis thanked him for this gesture of 'loyalty' and his 'willingness to serve humbly the good of the Order of Malta and the Church.'
This story began in November when the government of the Order of Malta discovered that years ago, the then-current great Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager allegedly allowed the Order to distribute condoms in third world countries; something he denies.
Faced with the serious crisis of confidence, the cardinal representative of the Order, Raymond Burke asked the pope to support the dismissal of Boeselager. Pope Francis responded that they should solve the problem with dialogue and not with an expulsion.
However, they ignored the pope and a few days later expelled the chancellor, with support of the pope's representative.
The former foreign minister appealed the decision to the Vatican, and with two letters invited the Order of Malta to follow the first indication of the pope and reconsider the expulsion.
Since they did not do this, the pope asked four members of the Order of Malta and an archbishop to investigate and inform him about what had really happened.
The Grand Master responded saying the Vatican had no power to intervene in an internal decision, and he asked the members of the Order not to cooperate with the investigation. He even went so far as to seriously accuse some members of the commission of a conflict of interest.
Now the Grand Master has set an example of obedience, and by stepping down, he will help the Order of Malta start again and solve this unprecedented situation which is not benefiting anyone.