Europe

Knights of Malta: Pope writes to stress order's sovereignty

  • 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. The Knights of Malta is still insisting on its sovereignty in its showdown with the Vatican, even after Pope Francis effectively took control of the ancient religious order and announced a papal delegate would govern it through a "process of renewal." ( 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. The Knights of Malta is still insisting on its sovereignty in its showdown with the Vatican, even after Pope Francis effectively took control of the ancient religious order and announced a papal delegate would govern it through a "process of renewal." ( Gabriel Bouys/ Pool Photo via AP, files)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE -- In this  June 20, 2014 file photo, Pope Francis blesses the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra' Matthew Festing, during a private audience in the pontiff's private library at the Vatican. The Knights of Malta is still insisting on its sovereignty in its showdown with the Vatican, even after Pope Francis effectively took control of the ancient religious order and announced a papal delegate would govern it through a "process of renewal." (AP Photo/Claudio Peri, Pool)

    FILE -- In this June 20, 2014 file photo, Pope Francis blesses the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra' Matthew Festing, during a private audience in the pontiff's private library at the Vatican. The Knights of Malta is still insisting on its sovereignty in its showdown with the Vatican, even after Pope Francis effectively took control of the ancient religious order and announced a papal delegate would govern it through a "process of renewal." (AP Photo/Claudio Peri, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE -- In this June 23, 2016 file photo, Pope Francis, flanked at left by Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing, stands during a family photo at the Vatican. The Knights of Malta is still insisting on its sovereignty in its showdown with the Vatican, even after Pope Francis effectively took control of the ancient religious order and announced a papal delegate would govern it through a "process of renewal." ( Gabriel Bouys/ Pool photo via AP)

    FILE -- In this June 23, 2016 file photo, Pope Francis, flanked at left by Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing, stands during a family photo at the Vatican. The Knights of Malta is still insisting on its sovereignty in its showdown with the Vatican, even after Pope Francis effectively took control of the ancient religious order and announced a papal delegate would govern it through a "process of renewal." ( Gabriel Bouys/ Pool photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

The Knights of Malta say Pope Francis has written to their leaders stressing the sovereignty of the ancient Catholic lay order, following a condom scandal linked to the order's charitable work.

The order's Sovereign Council in Rome on Saturday accepted the resignation of Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing, who had sacked the order's foreign minister, Albrecht von Boeselager. The minister was removed as grand chancellor following revelations that condoms were distributed in Myanmar under his watch.

The Vatican intervened on the minister's behalf. On Saturday, the council scrapped the disciplinary measures against von Boeselager, who resumes his post. The Knights say Francis in his letter Friday stressed the order's sovereignty.

Until Festing's successor is elected, Fra' Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein serves as its interim leader.