Christianity in Malta
|Christianity by Country
|Full list •|
|(1) The religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic apostolic religion.
(2) The authorities of the Roman Catholic apostolic church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong.
(3) Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic apostolic faith shall be provided in all state schools as part of compulsory education.
|Chapter 1, Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta|
- 1 History of Christianity in Malta
- 2 Patron saints
- 3 Current status and law
- 4 Patron Saints in Malta
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
History of Christianity in Malta
The Church in Malta is described in the Book of Acts (Acts 27:39-42; Acts 28:1-11) to have been founded by its patrons Saint Paul the Apostle and Saint Publius, who was its first bishop. The Islands of St. Paul (or St. Paul's Islets), in effect only one island during low tide, are traditionally believed to be the site where Saint Paul was shipwrecked in the year 60 AD, on his way to trial and eventual martyrdom in Rome.
Establishment of the Archdiocese of Malta
According to tradition, Publius, the Roman Governor of Malta at the time of Saint Paul's shipwreck, became the first Bishop of Malta following his conversion to Christianity. After ruling the Maltese Church for 31 years, Publius was transferred to the See of Athens in 90 AD, where he was martyred in 125 AD. There is scant information about the continuity of Christianity in Malta in subsequent years, although tradition has it that there was a continuous line of bishops from the days of St. Paul to the time of Emperor Constantine. The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon record that in 451 AD, a certain Acacius was Bishop of Malta (Melitenus Episcopus). It is also known that in 501 AD, a certain Constantinus, Episcopus Melitenensis, was present at the Fifth General Council. In 588 Tucillus, Miletinae civitatis episcopus, was deposed by Pope Gregory I, and his successor Trajan elected by the clergy and people of Malta in 599 AD. The last recorded Bishop of Malta before the Arab invasion of the Islands was a Greek by the name of Manas, who was subsequently incarcerated at Palermo, Sicily.
Sovereignty of the Order
While the Maltese Islands were under the dominion of the Knights of Malta, from the 15th century through to the late 18th century, the Grand Master had the status of a prince of the Catholic Church, and enjoyed a special relationship with the Pope, which occasionally led to a considerable amount of friction with the local Bishops.
Over the years, the power of the Knights declined; their reign ended when Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet arrived in 1789, en route to his expedition of Egypt. As a ruse, Napoleon asked for safe harbor to resupply his ships, and then turned his guns against his hosts once safely inside Valletta. Grand Master Hompesch capitulated, and Napoleon stayed in Malta for a few days during which he systematically looted the moveable assets of the Order and established an administration controlled by his nominees. He then sailed for Egypt leaving a substantial garrison in Malta. Since the Order had also been growing unpopular with the local Maltese, the latter initially viewed the French with optimism. This illusion did not last long. Within months the French were closing convents and seizing church treasures. The Maltese people rebelled, and the French garrison of General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois retreated into Valletta. After several failed attempts by the locals to retake Valletta, they asked the British for assistance. Rear Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson decided on a total blockade, and in 1800 the French garrison surrendered.
Establishment of the Diocese of Gozo
Historically part of the Diocese of Malta, Gozitans brought forward several petitions for the creation of an independent diocese, including in 1798, during the French occupation, and again in 1836. A third petition, brought directly to Pope Pius IX in 1855, met with success. Instrumental in this effort were a young priest named Don Pietro Pace, who would several years later serve as Bishop of Gozo, and Sir Adriano Dingli, Crown Advocate. The British Colonial Office signalled its approval in October 1860.
In 1863, Archpriest Michele Francesco Buttigieg was elected Auxiliary Bishop of Malta with instructions to reside in Gozo. One year later, on September 16, 1864, the Pope issued a Bull entitled "Singulari Amore" (With remarkable Love), which decreed that the Islands of Gozo and Comino were separated from the Diocese of Malta. On September 22, 1864, Bishop Buttigieg was elected the first bishop of Gozo, with the "Matrice" in Victoria, dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (Maltese: "Marija Assunta"), serving as his Cathedral.
In 1814, Malta became part of the British Empire in accordance with the Treaty of Paris. British rule lasted 150 years until 1964 when Malta gained independence. British rule brought the first sizeable population of members of the Anglican Church and Protestant denominations in the form of civil servants and retirees. British rule was typified by a condition of religious tolerance.
St. Paul is venerated as the patron saint of Malta. A number of parishes throughout Malta and Gozo are dedicated to him, including: the Cathedral Church at Mdina, the Collegiates of Rabat and Valletta, and the parishes of Ħal-Safi and Munxar.
St. John the Baptist, also known as St. John the Forerunner is also revered throughout Malta. As the patron saint of the Knights of Malta/Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, his image and symbols were incorporated into Malta's art and culture during the reign of the knights. A co-cathedral, along with numerous churches and chapels, are named in his honor.
Malta is the only nation in the world that has collectively been awarded the George Cross for conspicuous gallantry in World War II as a part of the British Empire, and its flag bears an image of that award.
The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Since 1600 the Maltese were devoted to the Assumption of the Virgin, locally known as Santa Marija, and asked the bishop to make Blessed Virgin Mary the co-patroness of the Islands. At that time there were already about 40 churches and chapels dedicated specifically to the Assumption. This request was accepted and promulgated more than 200 years later, on 18 February 1848, when the local bishop, H.L. Mgr Publius M. dei Conti Sant, made the Assumption a special patroness of the Maltese Islands with the words "Maria Assumpta Melitæ patrona et princeps inter sanctos titulares" (Mary, assumed in Heaven, patroness of Malta and first among titular saints). The feast took major significance in the hearts of the Maltese when on 15 August 1942 a battered, half-sunk convoy managed to enter the Grand Harbour of Valletta to feed the starved nation during the Second World War. Since then the Assumption has been considered as the special protectress and intercessor of the Maltese Nation.
Out of approximately 60 parishes in Malta and Gozo, 11 are dedicated to the Assumption. These include the Cathedral Church of Gozo, the parishes of Gudja, Ħal-Għaxaq, l-Imqabba, Qrendi, Mosta, Dingli, Attard, Mġarr, Birkirkara and Żebbuġ (Gozo). Many other churches have a treasured statue representing the mystery of the Assumption. Naturally, all of these being titular statues, they are the most treasured sacred artifacts of their respective communities. All statues in churches are kept with great care and devotion, however the devotion to statues representing patrons of villages is far greater than devotion to other representations.
Noteworthy details linked to the feast of the Assumption are the world-famous Mosta Rotunda  (known as the Mosta Dome), the magnificent Gozo Cathedral found in the old Citadel , and the exceptional annual fireworks display held on 14 August at Imqabba, organized by the St Mary Fireworks Factory of Imqabba, winners of the First Malta International Fireworks Festival (2006). This fireworks display is renowned as the best pyro-musical show on the island and thousands cram the village streets annually in order to watch it. 
Current status and law
The Constitution of Malta provides for freedom of religion but establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion. Freedom House and the World Factbook report that 98 percent of the Maltese religion is Roman Catholic, making the nation one of the most Catholic countries in the world. As at 2005, the rate of regular mass attendance was estimated at 52.6 percent (51 percent for Malta Island, 72.7 percent for Gozo), compared to 63.4 percent in 1995. There are two territorial jurisdictions: the Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo.
In public schools religious instruction in Roman Catholicism is part of the curriculum but students may opt to decline participation in religious lessons. Subsidies are granted to private Catholic schools.
Religious toleration is the norm, and the two percent of the population that is not Roman Catholic mainly consist of small communities of Muslims and Jews, in addition to Anglican and Protestant communities consisting mostly of British retirees. There is one Muslim religious school in the country, and the government had approved plans for a 500-grave Muslim cemetery.
The percentage of people that attend mass in every locality of Malta:
|Locality||% of attenders|
|Mdina - St. Paul||88%|
|Kerċem - St. Gregory and Our Lady of Health||86%|
|San Lawrenz - St. Lawrence||85%|
|Fontana - Sacred Heart of Jesus||83%|
|Lija - Transfiguration of Jesus||78%|
|Victoria, Gozo - St. Mary and St. George||77%|
|Xewkija - St. John the Baptist||75%|
|Xagħra - Nativity of Our Lady||74%|
|Għarb - Visitation of Our Lady||75%|
|Għajnsielem - Our Lady of Loreto||73%|
|Qala - St. Joseph||72%|
|Mġarr - St. Mary||72%|
|Sannat - St. Margharite||70%|
|Għargħur- St. Bartholomew||67%|
|Għasri - Corpus Christi||66%|
|Nadur - St. Peter and St. Paul||66%|
|Balzan - The Annunciation||66%|
|Munxar - St. Paul||64%|
|Gudja - The Assumption of Our Lady||60%|
|Mosta - The Assumption of Our Lady||60%|
|Iklin - Holy Family||60%|
|Siġġiewi - St. Nicholas||58%|
|Rabat - St. Paul||58%|
|Dingli - The Assumption of Our Lady||57%|
|Attard - The Assumption of Our Lady||57%|
|Tarxien - The Annunciation||55%|
|Żebbuġ, Malta - St. Philip of Aggira||54%|
|Qormi - Parish of St. George and Parish of St. Sebastian||54%|
|Naxxar - Our Lady of Victory||54%|
|Santa Luċija - St. Pius X||54%|
|Ħamrun - Parish of St. Cajten and Parish of the Immaculate Conception||54%|
|Mellieħa - Our Lady of Victory||53%|
|Qrendi - The Assumption of Our Lady||53%|
|Żabbar - Our Lady of Graces||53%|
|Paola - Parish of Christ the King and Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes||52%|
|Marsaxlokk Our Lady of Pompeii||52%|
|Floriana - St. Publius||52%|
|Mqabba - The Assumption of Our Lady||52%|
|Żebbuġ, Gozo - The Assumption of Our Lady||52%|
|Żurrieq - St. Catherine of Alexandria||51%|
|Marsa - Parish of the Holy Trinity and Parish of Maria Regina||51%|
|Għaxaq - The Assumption of Our Lady||51%|
|Kalkara - St. Joseph||51%|
|Żejtun - St. Catherine of Alexandria||50%|
|Safi - St. Paul||49%|
|Fgura - Our Lady of Monte Carmel||47%|
|Valletta - Parish of St. Paul's Shipwreck, Parish of Our Lady of Porto Salvo, and Parish of St. Augustine||47%|
|Kirkop - St. Leonard||45%|
|Birgu - St. Lawrence||45%|
|Msida - St. Joseph||45%|
|Birżebbuġa - St. Peter in Chains||43%|
|San Ġwann - Our Lady of Lourdes||43%|
|Mtarfa - St. Lucy||42%|
|Gżira - Our Lady of Monte Carmel||41%|
|Swieqi - The Immaculate Conception||41%|
|Marsaskala - St. Anne||40%|
|Bormla - The Immaculate Conception||39%|
|Luqa - St. Andrew||39%|
|Pietà - Our Lady of Fatima||38%|
|Isla - Our Lady of Victory||37%|
|San Pawl il-Baħar - Parish of Our Lady of Sorrows, Parish of Sacred Heart of Mary, and Parish of St. Frances of Assisi||36%|
Other totals of people attend to mass, because these localities are not in percentage:
|Locality||total of attenders|
|Balluta - Our Lady of Monte Carmel||1,284|
|Birkirkara - Parish of St. Helen, Parish of Our Lady of Monte Carmel, Parish of St. Mary and Parish of St. Joseph the Worker||9,851|
|San Ġiljan - St. Julian||3,267|
|Santa Venera - St. Venera||2,508|
|Sliema - Parish of Stella Maris, Parish of Sacro Cour, Parish of St. Gregory the Great, and Parish of Jesus of Nazzareth||5,585|
Additionally, between a quarter and a fifth of mass attendees, are active members of a Church Movement, group or initiatives such as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, the Neocatechumenal Way, the Legion of Mary, Opus Dei, Youth Fellowship and other Church groups within the parish. Malta also has the highest number of members of the Neocatechumenal Way per population in the world.
Malta introduced divorce after a referendum was held on the 28 May 2011 . Performing abortion on Maltese territory is also illegal, though over the years several loopholes (non-inclusion of outer territorial waters, no mention of advertising) permitted individuals to circumvent the ban for limited time periods. In an SMS poll, Malta chose the Maltese cross to be the image on the Maltese Euro and rejected one of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, which had garnered a strong majority in a previous poll, after attracting opposition even from the Local Bishops who did not see it fit to place Jesus' face on a coin.
Patron Saints in Malta
- Assumption of Mary, the patron of Attard, Birkirkara, Bubaqra, Dingli, Gudja, Għaxaq, Mġarr, Mosta, Mqabba, Qrendi, Victoria, Malta, and Żebbuġ, Gozo
- Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), the patron of Għasri
- Christ the King, the patron of Paola, Malta
- Holy Family, the patron of Bidnija and Iklin
- Holy Trinity, the patron of Marsa, Malta
- Immaculate Conception, the patron of Bormla, Ħamrun, Mqabba, Qala and Swieqi
- Jesus of Nazareth, the patron of Sliema
- Maria Regina, the patron of Marsa, Malta
- Nativity of Mary, the patron of Mellieħa, Naxxar, Senglea, and Xagħra
- Our Lady of Fatima, the patron of Pietà, Malta
- Our Lady of Good Counsel, the patron of Paceville
- Our Lady of Graces, the patron of Xgħajra and Żabbar
- Our Lady of Lourdes, the patron of Paola, Malta, Qrendi and San Ġwann
- Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the patron of Balluta, Fgura, Fleur-de-Lys, Gżira, Valletta, Xlendi, and Żurrieq
- Our Lady of Pompeii, the patron of Marsaxlokk
- Our Lady of Porto Salvo, the patron of Valletta
- Our Lady of Rosary, the patron of Gudja
- Our Lady of Sorrows, the patron of San Pawl il-Baħar
- Our Lady of Angels, the patron of Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq
- Our Lady of Loreto, the patron of Għajnsielem
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the patron of Kerċem
- Our Lady of Ta' Pinu, the patron of Gozo
- Our Lady, Star of the Sea, the patron of Sliema
- Risen Christ, the patron of Pembroke, Malta
- Sacred Heart of Jesus, the patron of Fontana, Malta
- Sacred Heart of Mary, the patron of Burmarrad and Sliema
- Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Luqa
- Saint Anne, the patron saint of Dwejra, Marsaskala and Żebbiegħ
- Saint Augustine of Hippo, the patron saint of Valletta
- Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, the patron saint of Għargħur
- Saint Cajetan, the patron saint of Ħamrun
- Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of Żejtun and Żurrieq
- Saint Dominic, the patron saint of Birgu and Valletta
- Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Qawra
- Saint George, the patron saint of Qormi and Victoria, Malta
- Saint George Preca, the patron saint of Swatar (Birkirkara)
- Saint Gregory, the patron saint of Kerċem and Sliema
- Saint John of the Cross, the patron saint of Ta' Xbiex
- Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of Valletta and Xewkija
- Saint Joseph, the patron saint of Birkirkara, Għaxaq, Kalkara, Kirkop, Manikata, Msida, Qala and Xemxija
- Saint Julian the Hospitaller, the patron saint of San Ġiljan
- Saint Helena (Empress), the patron saint of Birkirkara
- Saint Lawrence of Rome, the patron saint of Birgu and San Lawrenz
- Saint Leonard, the patron saint of Kirkop
- Saint Lucy, the patron saint of Mtarfa and Santa Luċija, Gozo
- Saint Margaret the Virgin, the patron saint of Sannat
- Saint Martin of Tours, the patron saint of Baħrija
- Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the patron saint of Buġibba
- Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of Siġġiewi
- Saint Paul, the patron saint of Marsalforn, Mdina, Munxar, Nadur Rabat, Malta, Safi, Malta, and Valletta
- Saint Peter, the patron saint of Birżebbuġa and Nadur
- Saint Philip of Agira, the patron saint of Żebbuġ, Malta
- Saint Pius X, the patron saint of Santa Luċija
- Saint Publius, the patron saint of Floriana, Malta
- Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Qormi
- The Annunciation, the patron of Balzan and Tarxien
- The Transfiguration of Jesus, the patron of Lija
- Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron of Għarb
- Culture of Malta
- Maltese people
- Islam in Malta
- History of the Jews in Malta
- Religion by country
- Roman Catholicism in Malta
- Kendal, James (1910). "Malta". The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Retrieved 2006-06-18.
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Gozo Diocese, "The Diocese - A Historical Note"
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Malta". The World Factbook. Retrieved September 6, 2006.
- Catholic hierarchy.org, Adherents.com
- Discern (August 2006). Sunday Mass Attendance Census 2005: Preliminary Report. Archdiocese of Malta. Retrieved 2006-09-06.
- Alessandra Stanley (9 May 2001). "Valletta Journal: Malta greets the Pope like a beloved spa client". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-06-18.
- Ivan Camilleri (July 18, 2006). "Malta cautious over EU divorce proposals". Times of Malta. Retrieved 2006-06-18.
- Steven Ertelt (17 July 2006). "Malta pro-life advocates can't stop Spain abortion business from running ads". Life News.com. Retrieved 2006-06-18.
- "Maltese choose cross for euro coin". Catholic News.net. 19 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-18.[dead link]
- Profile of the Catholic Church in Malta
- Homepage of the Archdiocese of Malta
- Freedom House Country Report: Malta (2006)
- Freedom House Country Report: Malta (2005)
- Freedom House Country Report: Malta (2004)
- Freedom House Country Report: Malta (2003)
- Freedom House Country Report: Malta (2002)