Knights of Malta elect Italian leader for life after crisis

The Knights of Malta, the ancient Roman Catholic aristocratic lay order that weathered a governance scandal last year, has elected an Italian nobleman as its leader for life.

The 54 electors on Wednesday tapped Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto as grand master. The 73-year-old Dalla Torre had been serving as the lieutenant grand master since last year — a temporary post that now becomes a life term with his election as the 80th grand master in the order's 900-year history.

The Knights' governance crisis was sparked by a condom distribution scandal that ended when Pope Francis intervened to oust the Knights' previous grand master. The papal intervention and subsequent Vatican-accompanied reform was remarkable given the Knights have many of the trappings of a sovereign state.