The Vatican has officially seized power from the Order of Malta. An action that amounts to one sovereign country annexing another. This news comes shortly after the head of the Order, Fra’ Matthew Festing met with Pope Francis and resigned from the Order. Now the Vatican has ceased complete power of the order ending 900 years of sovereignty in what is being called "a brutal power-grab by the Vatican."

The disorder in Malta had started in December when the Vatican demanded that the Knights of Malta dismiss Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager as grand chancellor (the order’s third-ranking official) for distributing thousands of condoms and oral contraceptives through the order’s humanitarian agency, Malteser International.

Shortly thereafter, Pope Francis demanded that Cardinal Burke purge all the Freemasons from the Knights of Malta. The Vatican journalist Edward Pentin had written:

"Hopes that the contraceptive scandal would be addressed came on Nov. 10, when Cardinal Burke was received in private audience by Pope Francis. During that meeting, the Register has learned, the Pope was “deeply disturbed” by what the cardinal told him about the contraceptive distribution.

The Pope also made it clear to Cardinal Burke that he wanted Freemasonry “cleaned out” from the order, and he demanded appropriate action.

The concern was followed up by a Dec. 1 letter to Cardinal Burke, in which the Register has learned that the Holy Father underlined the cardinal’s constitutional duty to promote the spiritual interests of the order and remove any affiliation with groups or practices that run contrary to the moral law."

Pope Francis had previously criticized the influence of Freemasons on the Church in July 2013 when he said:

“The problem is not having this [homosexual] orientation. No, we must be brothers and sisters. The problem is lobbying for this orientation, or lobbies of greed, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me."

In a June 21, 2015 statement, the Pope when speaking on Freemasons had called them, "Masonic, hardcore anticlericals and Satanists." The Pope had said:

"At the end of the 19th century there were the worst conditions for young people’s development: freemasonry was in full swing, not even the Church could do anything, there were priest haters, there were also Satanists.... It was one of the worst moments and one of the worst places in the history of Italy. However, if you would like to do a nice homework assignment, go and find out how many men and women saints were born during that time. Why? Because they realized that they had to go against the tide with respect to the culture, to that lifestyle."

The Catholic Herald had said, "Fra’ Matthew had refused to cooperate with a papal commission investigating his ousting of the grand chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, over revelations that the order’s charity branch had distributed condoms under his watch. Fra’ Matthew had cited the Order’s status as a sovereign entity in refusing to cooperate.

Last week, the Holy See said in a sharply worded statement that it plans to take action to resolve the dispute, which had set the stage for one sovereign entity intervening in the internal affairs of another.

In a January 17 statement, the Vatican called the issue a “crisis of the central direction” of the Order of Malta."

The SFGate reports that Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, said the Vatican intervention was “dangerous” as a result, because it set a precedent that could eventually be used against the Holy See, which has a similarly unique status as a tiny sovereign entity that nevertheless enjoys international recognition at the United Nations and elsewhere.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta dates back to the First Crusade and is now considered a lay religious order headquartered in Rome. The Knights are sovereigns under international law who employ diplomatic relations with 106 countries. The Order has long been known as protectors of the Christian faith who were also dedicated to assisting the poor and sick people of the world with approximately 25,000 medical personnel and 80,000 volunteers located all around the globe.

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