Bring up an order that has been around since the Crusades and you will find more conspiracy theories than you can imagine. The Knights of Malta have a long history is courage, protection of the Christian faith and as a secret society.
In 1048, the Order of St. John of Jerusalem was established with a church and a hospital to aid travelers to the Holy Lands. All that were connected to the order were knights who had taken the monastic vows commonly known as poverty, chastity, and obedience. They adopted the white 8-pointed star as their official symbol.
As Jerusalem fell for the last time in 1291, the order was run out of the Holy lands. They moved around nomadically for several years until in 1310 they established headquarters on Rhodes where they commenced to building a navy that helped to fight non-Christian nations. The order remained in Rhodes until 1523 when it had to surrender to the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent after a siege of about 6 months.
After 7 years of wandering again, the order found a home at Malta in 1530. They remained there and became known as the Knights of Malta. This was another home that was taken away from them in 1798 by Napoleon who wanted the location for a base of operations for his military campaigns. Once again, the order found itself without a home until 1834 where it settled in Rome and remains there today.
Currently there are about 13,000 members of the order that can be found worldwide. The order has unique political status as it is a sovereign entity and has political connections to many countries. It has a seat at the UN in a similar capacity as the Red Cross. It is this unique political status and its history from the Crusades that makes it a “popular target for conspiracy theorists”.
Alleged members have said to be CIA directors, CEO chairmen, and major political party members. Rumors have the order involved in the Kennedy assassination, influencing relations between the West and the Middle East, as well as being the cause of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Though one might scoff at these, there have been actual cases of members of the order being involved in espionage. One embassy worker in Cuba admitted being a spy for the CIA and for Cuba. This does not help the order get out from under the secret society umbrella.