Catholic order deputy sacked in condom row
For nearly 1,000 years it has cared for the poor and sick, first among pilgrims heading to the Holy Land during the Crusades and more recently in refugee camps and war zones around the world.
But the Sovereign Order of Malta, a chivalric order based in Rome that regards itself as an independent sovereign state, has been riven by a fight over condoms.
Matthew Festing, the British Grand Master of the Catholic order, summarily dismissed his deputy Albrecht von Boeselager, after he was accused of breaching the order's rules about prophylactics. A branch of the Order of Malta was handing out condoms to try to combat Aids and help birth control in Africa, contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church and the order's own regulations.
Mr von Boeselager was held responsible for the breach because he was in charge of humanitarian and relief operations. He is believed to have been regarded as too liberal for the order, the oldest and most illustrious in the Catholic world.
But Mr von Boeselager, who as Grand Chancellor was effectively the order's foreign minister, refused to go without a fight.
He was twice asked to resign by the Grand Master and twice refused.
In the end Mr Festing, whose full title is His Most Eminent Highness, Prince and Grand Master, was forced to sack his deputy. (© Daily Telegraph London)