Europe

Knights of Malta head resigns amid spat with Pope Francis

  • FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2013 file photo, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing waits for the start of a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Tacisio Bertone, not pictured, to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order of the Knights of Malta, at the Vatican. Festing resigned after entering into a public spat with Pope Francis over the ouster of a top official involved in a condom scandal, a spokeswoman for the ancient lay Catholic order said on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2013 file photo, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing waits for the start of a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Tacisio Bertone, not pictured, to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order of the Knights of Malta, at the Vatican. Festing resigned after entering into a public spat with Pope Francis over the ouster of a top official involved in a condom scandal, a spokeswoman for the ancient lay Catholic order said on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this June 25, 2015 file photo, Pope Francis greets the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta Matthew Festing, right, at the end of a private audience in the Pontiff's private library at the Vatican. Festing resigned after entering into a public spat with Francis over the ouster of a top official involved in a condom scandal, a spokeswoman for the ancient lay Catholic order said on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, File)

    FILE - In this June 25, 2015 file photo, Pope Francis greets the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta Matthew Festing, right, at the end of a private audience in the Pontiff's private library at the Vatican. Festing resigned after entering into a public spat with Francis over the ouster of a top official involved in a condom scandal, a spokeswoman for the ancient lay Catholic order said on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this June 23, 2016 file photo, Pope Francis delivers his blessing during his meeting with Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing, left, at the Vatican. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2016 the Vatican said Pope Francis will name a pontifical delegate to run the embattled Knights of Malta, effectively taking over the sovereign lay Catholic order after its leader Festing resigned in a bitter dispute with the pontiff over condoms.  ( Gabriel Bouys/ Pool Photo via AP, files)

    FILE - In this June 23, 2016 file photo, Pope Francis delivers his blessing during his meeting with Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing, left, at the Vatican. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2016 the Vatican said Pope Francis will name a pontifical delegate to run the embattled Knights of Malta, effectively taking over the sovereign lay Catholic order after its leader Festing resigned in a bitter dispute with the pontiff over condoms. ( Gabriel Bouys/ Pool Photo via AP, files)  (The Associated Press)

The head of the Knights of Malta has resigned after entering into a public spat with Pope Francis over the ouster of a top official involved in a condom scandal.

Marianna Balfour, spokeswoman for the ancient lay Catholic order, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Matthew Festing had met with the pope on Tuesday and offered his resignation.

In an email, Balfour said that "I can confirm this."

Festing had refused to cooperate with a papal commission investigating his ouster of the grand chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, over revelations that the order's charity branch had distributed condoms under his watch. Festing had cited the Knights' status as a sovereign entity in refusing to cooperate.