Pope Francis has named Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Vatican substitute secretary of state, as his special delegate and spokesman to the Order of Malta.

“Until the end of your mandate, that is until the conclusion of the extraordinary chapter, which will elect the grand master, you will be my exclusive spokesperson in all matters relating to relations between the Apostolic See and the order,” the Pope wrote in a letter to Archbishop Becciu.

The special delegate, the Pope said, will work closely with Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, the chivalric order’s temporary head, to carry out “the appropriate renewal of the order’s constitution”.

The Pope’s letter, released by the Vatican, came after several tense weeks which led to the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing as Grand Master. Fra’ Festing told the Tablet last week that it was an “extremely complex situation, it is extremely fluid, and by no means finished” – and that it was “not appropriate” for him to say more. At a press conference last week Albrecht von Boeselager, the newly reinstated Grand Chancellor, said the order’s crisis was a “marginal event in history” and that the real crisis was the “misery and the plea of the millions of people [who are] homeless, migrating and fleeing”.

Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, Grand Hospitaller of the order, said the crisis had been “troublesome for our donors”, many of whom “decided maybe not to help us any more because they thought we were fighting against the Pope, which is not true.

“So now we have to restore this trust,” he said.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection