Europe

Knights of Malta insist on sovereignty amid papal takeover

  • FILE - In this June 23, 2016 file photo, Pope Francis delivers his blessing during his meeting with Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing, left, at the Vatican. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2016 the Vatican said Pope Francis will name a pontifical delegate to run the embattled Knights of Malta, effectively taking over the sovereign lay Catholic order after its leader Festing resigned in a bitter dispute with the pontiff over condoms.  ( Gabriel Bouys/ Pool Photo via AP, files)

    FILE - In this June 23, 2016 file photo, Pope Francis delivers his blessing during his meeting with Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing, left, at the Vatican. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2016 the Vatican said Pope Francis will name a pontifical delegate to run the embattled Knights of Malta, effectively taking over the sovereign lay Catholic order after its leader Festing resigned in a bitter dispute with the pontiff over condoms. ( Gabriel Bouys/ Pool Photo via AP, files)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2013 file photo, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing waits for the start of a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Tacisio Bertone, not pictured, to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order of the Knights of Malta, at the Vatican. Festing resigned after entering into a public spat with Pope Francis over the ouster of a top official involved in a condom scandal, a spokeswoman for the ancient lay Catholic order said on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2013 file photo, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Matthew Festing waits for the start of a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Tacisio Bertone, not pictured, to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order of the Knights of Malta, at the Vatican. Festing resigned after entering into a public spat with Pope Francis over the ouster of a top official involved in a condom scandal, a spokeswoman for the ancient lay Catholic order said on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)  (The Associated Press)

The Knights of Malta religious order is still insisting on its sovereignty in its showdown with the Vatican, even after the Holy See announced that Pope Francis was effectively taking it over by naming a papal delegate to govern it.

The Knights' current grand master, Fra' Matthew Festing, was at work Friday at the Knights' swanky palazzo near the Spanish Steps, pending a meeting of his governing council to either accept or reject his resignation.

Saturday's meeting is no mere formality: It's evidence of the order's sovereign status, which is recognized by the more than 100 countries with which it has diplomatic relations.

A spokesman said if Festing's resignation is accepted, the Knights will immediately begin the process of electing a new grand master — independent of any papal delegate.