Ancient Order of Malta faces era of change as interim leader is elected

Religion News Service

By Josephine McKenna

ROME (RNS) The nearly thousand-year-old Order of Malta is bracing for major reforms in the wake of the election of an Italian nobleman to lead the Catholic chivalric order that carries out charitable works around the globe.

The election of Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto came in a closed-door vote in a Roman villa on Saturday (April 29) and followed a bitter internal clash that led Pope Francis to oust the previous leader.

That dispute — ostensibly sparked by disagreements over the inadvertent distribution of contraceptives through an aid program in Myanmar — set up a proxy battle between traditionalists opposed to Francis and reformers who want to see the church take a more flexible approach.

It also proved to be a classic Vatican soap opera that featured out-sized personalities while casting a harsh light on a quietly influential church charity — one which is also a bastion of clerical and aristocratic privilege.

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