The Knights of Malta have 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 Vatican over the order’s sovereignty.
The new temporary leader is Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto 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 effectively took over the sovereign lay Catholic order after a dispute over condoms led to the resignation of Fra’ Festing, who travelled to Rome for the election in defiance of a Vatican request, which was later rescinded.