Knights of Malta vote for new leader after papal dispute

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Members of the ancient Knights of Malta religious order are voting for a new leader after the old one was effectively ousted by Pope Francis. Setting the stage for drama, the former grand master has defied the pope and traveled to Rome for the election.

Knights garbed in black robes gathered for a Mass inside the order's Villa Magistrale on Rome's Aventine Hill ahead of the secret balloting on Saturday. Fifty-six knights eligible to cast ballots must choose a leader from a pool that, according to the order's rules, must have taken religious vows of poverty, obedience and chastity and hail from noble lineage.

The Vatican took over the sovereign lay Catholic order a dispute over condoms led leader Fra' Matthew Festing to resign in January.