Knights of Malta insist on sovereignty amid papal takeover

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.