Modern ‘knights’ to sue Pope

THE distant past has emerged to trouble Pope Benedict XVI.

Just in time to disturb his quiet Alpine holiday, it has emerged that a group styling itself the heir of the famed Knights Templar has started legal proceedings to force him to recognise the seizure of assets worth 100 billion euros (S$213 billion) way back in 1307.

The group also wants the Pope to rehabilitate the good name of the fabled Order, which was dissolved seven centuries ago amid allegations of heresy and witchcraft, reported The Telegraph.

The lawsuit was filed in Spain by the Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ, whose members claim to be descended from the legendary warrior monks.

The group claims that its motive is not to claim damages. But it also says that, when the order was closed down by Pope Clement V in 1307, more than 9,000 properties – including countless pastures, mills and other commercial ventures belonging to the order – were taken over by the Catholic church.

“We are not trying to cause the economic collapse of the Roman Catholic Church,” read a statement issued by the modern-day – and self-anointed – knights.

Rather, they only wished to “illustrate to the court the magnitude of the plot against our Order”.

This was because their sole purpose was to restore the good name of the Knights Templar, they argued.

The association, which is legally-registered in Spain, had its first complaint denied by the Spanish legal authorities, but it is appealing, reported

The military order has remained well-known till current times, and was allotted a role in Dan Brown’s literary blockbuster, The Da Vinci Code, and the movie, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.

Historically, the Knights Templar – or, to use its formal name, the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon – was founded in 1118 by the French knight Hugues de Payens.

After the First Crusade of 1099, many lands had been taken from the Muslims – including Jerusalem – and the knights pledged themselves to protect pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.

But the power of the Templars expanded spectacularly.

The military order is credited with laying the foundation of the European banking system.

It came to control vast wealth that it used to help finance wars waged by European kings.

But after the Muslims retook the Holy Land in 1244, rumours surfaced of dark practices, including devil-worshipping and sodomy. Experts believe these were encouraged by parties that coveted its wealth.

Finally, the French King Philip IV attained total influence over the Papacy. Under his direction, the Templars were rounded up in 1307 and, under torture, confessed to heinous crimes.

Grand Master Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake, as were many of his brethren.

The legal move by the Spanish group comes in the wake of an unprecedented step by the Vatican towards the rehabilitation of the group.

Last October, it released copies of parchments detailing the trials of the Knights between 1307 and 1312, which show the role of King Philip in the Templars’ suppression.



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