The ousted ‘foreign minister’ of the ancient lay Catholic order, the Order of Malta, has appealed against his suspension to the knights’ internal tribunal, marking a new twist in the standoff between the Vatican and the order.

Albrecht von Boeselager was suspended on December 8 after he defied a demand by the knights’ leader to resign, following reports that the order’s charity branch distributed tens of thousands of condoms in Burma on his watch.

In a statement Mr Boeselager said that he had filed an appeal with the knights’ tribunal. The appeal argues that “not even one of the conditions” governing suspension of members applied to his case.

In particular, he said there was no justification for launching a disciplinary procedure against him, and that the one used to remove him was invalid anyway.

The Pope has intervened in the row, establishing a commission to investigate what Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, described as an “unprecedented crisis” within the order.

The leadership of the knights, however, will not cooperate with the inquiry, arguing that it is a sovereign entity under international law.

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