The Knights of Malta-Vatican feud: a tale of chivalry and sovereignty

FILE PHOTO - Pope Francis meets Robert Matthew Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta during a private audience at the VaticanBy Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – On the afternoon of Jan. 24, a black BMW pulled out of a 16th century palace in Rome, crossed the Tiber River and headed for the Vatican, a short trip to end a brazen challenge to the authority of Pope Francis. Inside the car was 67-year-old Englishman Matthew Festing, the head of an ancient Catholic order of knights which is now a worldwide charity with a unique diplomatic status. Festing was about to resign, the first leader in several centuries of the Order of Malta, which was founded in 1048 to provide medical aid for pilgrims in the Holy Land, to step down instead of ruling for life.

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