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Knights of Malta elect temporary leader for reform period

Associated Press logo Associated Press 29/04/2017
Knights of Malta garbed in black robes walk in procession before the election of the new Grand Master, at the order’s Villa Magistrale on Rome’s Aventine Hill ahead of the secret balloting on Saturday, April 29, 2017. The ancient Knights of Malta religious order are voting for a new leader after the old one was effectively ousted by Pope Francis. Setting the stage for drama, the former grand master has traveled to Rome for the election, in defiance of the pope. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) © The Associated Press Knights of Malta garbed in black robes walk in procession before the election of the new Grand Master, at the order’s Villa Magistrale on Rome’s Aventine Hill ahead of the secret balloting on Saturday, April 29, 2017. The ancient Knights of Malta religious order are voting for a new leader after the old one was effectively ousted by Pope Francis. Setting the stage for drama, the former grand master has traveled to Rome for the election, in defiance of the pope. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY — The ancient Knights of Malta religious order on Saturday elected a temporary leader during a period of reform after the last grand master was effectively ousted by Pope Francis.

The secret ballot by 56 knights eligible to vote means the order will continue a period of Vatican-mandated reform before electing a grand master to replace Fra' Matthew Festing, who resigned in January in a dispute with the pope over the order's sovereignty.

The new temporary leader is Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre with the title of lieutenant of the grand master. He most recently has been the grand prior in charge of the order's Rome chapter.

Knights garbed in black robes gathered for a Mass inside the order's Villa Magistrale on Rome's Aventine Hill ahead of the secret balloting. Knights eligible to cast ballots must choose a leader from a pool of people who, according to the order's rules, must have taken religious vows of poverty, obedience and chastity and hail from noble lineage.

The planned reforms are expected to broaden eligibility in the next election.

The Vatican took over the sovereign lay Catholic order after a dispute over condoms led to the resignation of Festing, who traveled to Rome for the election in defiance of the pontiff.

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