An image of Pope Clement V apparently absolving the Knights Templar of heresy charges 700 years ago, from the book Processus Contra Templarios. The book is a compilation of documents found in the Vatican's secret archives in 2001. AP
August 17, 2008 ·
A group of people claiming to be the heirs of the legendary Knights Templar are suing Pope Benedict XVI, seeking more than $150 billion for assets seized by the Catholic Church seven centuries ago.
They also want to restore the order's good name. Founded in 1119, the Knights Templar was a secretive order of Christian warriors who protected pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem during the Crusades. They fell out of favor years later, and members were accused of denying Christ, worshipping the devil and practicing sodomy. Many Templars were tortured and burned at the stake.
In 1307, Pope Clement V accused the order of heresy and officially dissolved it.
Fiona Govan, who wrote about the lawsuit for London's Daily Telegraph, tells host Andrea Seabrook the order is believed to have gone underground and continued to practice, but that there is no firm, historical evidence to support it.
Last fall, the Vatican published secret documents about the trial of the Templars in a book called Processus Contra Templarios, Latin for "Trial Against the Templars." The volume included a parchment apparently showing that, contrary to historic belief, Clement had absolved the order of heresy.
Now, a group called the Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ has filed suit in a Spanish court, asking for an apology from the pope and recognition that land and property worth about $150 billion today was seized from the Templars.
The Vatican will never reimburse the group, Govan says, because its members cannot prove that they are descendants of the Knights Templar.
She calls the claim "ludicrous" and says Spanish papers have suggested the issue is something for psychiatrists to decide rather than historians.
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