Conservative criticism of Papa Francis, the anti-Trump Pope, intensified Saturday after his intervention in the Knights of Malta Order, with posters appearing around Rome citing his actions against conservative Catholics and asking: “Where’s your mercy?”
The posters appeared on the same day that Papa Francis cemented his authority over the Knights by naming a top Vatican Archbishop, Angelo Becciu, to be his special delegate to the ancient aristocratic Order of Knights.
Francis gave Archbishop Becciu, the #2 in the Vatican Secretariat of State, “all necessary powers” to help lay the groundwork for a new constitution for the Order, lead the spiritual renewal of its professed Knights and prepare for the election of a new Grand Master, expected in 3 months.
The Vatican’s intervention with the sovereign group provided fuel for Francis’ conservative critics, who until Saturday had largely confined their concern with his mercy-over-morals papacy to blogs, interviews and conferences.
Saturday, dozens of posters appeared around Rome featuring a stern-looking Francis and referencing the “decapitation” of the Knights and other actions Francis has taken against conservative, tradition-minded groups.
Within hours, the City of Rome had plastered over the posters. Police launched an investigation into the conservative circles believed responsible, aided by closed-circuit cameras.
The posters, written in Roman dialect, also cited the way Francis had “ignored Cardinals,” a reference to the Cardinals who have publicly asked Francis to clarify whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion.
Pope Francis hasn’t responded directly, though he has made it clear he favors case-by-case allowances.
One of the Cardinals is Raymond Burke, a conservative American whom the Pope removed as the Vatican’s supreme court judge in Y 2014 and named to be his liaison with the Knights of Malta. Cardinal Burke, a staunch defender of Catholic doctrine on sexual morals, has become Francis’ most vocal critic and was instrumental in the Knights’ saga.
With Cardinal Burke’s support, the Knights’ Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing sacked the Grand Chancellor, Albert von Boeselager. After learning that the ouster had been done in his name, Pope Francis effectively took over the Order. He asked Mathew Festing to resign, restored Boeselager to his position, declared all the Knights’ sovereign decisions on the matter “Null and Void” and appointed Archbishop Becciu to help run the Order temporarily and confirms Cardinal Burke’s marginalization.
The Knights are a unique organization: An aristocratic lay religious order that traces its history to the Crusades, the order runs a vast humanitarian organization around the world involving over 100,000 staff and volunteers. The Order also enjoys sovereign status and has diplomatic relations with over 100 countries, the Holy See included.
Have a terrific week.