Knights of Malta Celebrates 900th Birthday

The Knights of Malta—an oft-misunderstood religious organization—celebrated its 900th birthday Saturday with a jubilant procession through St. Peter's Square. Both a Roman Catholic religious group and a service organization that runs soup kitchens and volunteer ambulances worldwide, the Knights are a sovereign entity that even print their own passports. More than 4,000 joined in the march to celebrate, many wearing the eight-point Maltese crown that represents the Knights. The order was founded in the 11th century by a monk in Jerusalem. Speaking in commemoration, Pope Benedict said the work of the order is more than just a dedication to religion but compassion for others. "[It] is not mere philanthropy but an effective expression and a living testimony of evangelical love."