Source: Associated Press
By NICOLE WINFIELD
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Wednesday seized control of the Knights of Malta, and action that amounts to one sovereign country annexing another, if on a very small scale.
Here’s what led to the takeover and what it means for the Knights, the Vatican and the Catholic Church.
WHO ARE THEY?
The Knights of Malta is an ancient lay Catholic religious order that runs hospitals and clinics around the world. It counts 3,500 members and 100,000 staff and volunteers who lend first aid in war zones, natural disasters and conflict areas; members also make regular pilgrimages bringing the sick to Catholic shrines.
The Knights trace their history to the 11th-century Crusades and are known for the aristocratic lineage of their members, their fancy, fringed uniforms, and the big Maltese cross that adorns their liturgical robes. Despite their name, they are based in Rome, where their headquarters has the same status as a foreign embassy.