Sir Michael Gonzi
|Archbishop of Malta|
|Church||Roman Catholic Church|
|Archdiocese||Archdiocese of Malta|
|In office||1943 — 1976|
|Ordination||19 December 1908|
|Consecration||17 December 1943
by Mauro Caruana
13 May 1885|
Vittoriosa, Birgu, Malta
|Died||January 22, 1984
|Previous post||Bishop of Gozo,
Coadjutor Bishop of Malta,
Bishop of Malta,
Titular Bishop of Lyrbe
Count Sir Michael Gonzi, KBE (Maltese Mikiel Gonzi) (13 May 1885 – 22 January 1984) was Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Malta (Bishop before this Malta elevated to the status of archdiocese during his tenure). He had also been Bishop of Gozo and an elected Labour Senator in the Malta Legislative Assembly.
Early life and Ordination
He was born as Michele Gonzi in Vittoriosa and ordained to the priesthood in 1908.
Political and ecclesiastical career
Elected as a Labour Senator in the Malta Legislative Assembly in 1921 he resigned half-way into his term to be ordained as the 5th Bishop of Gozo in 1924. He held this office until 14 October 1943 when he became coadjutor bishop of Malta and Titular Bishop of Lyrbe. Three months later Mauro Caruana, Bishop of Malta, died, and on 17 December Gonzi succeeded him. Gonzi became Archbishop in 1944 when Malta was elevated to an Archdiocese.
Gonzi was instrumental in helping families without decent dwellings to find good houses. He commissioned the construction of apartments for families and was also the motor behind the construction of many churches especially the one in Kalkara.
Gonzi resigned his post of Archbishop of Malta in 1978 to be succeeded by Joseph Mercieca.
Trouble stated in 1948 when Mintoff was still Deputy Leader of his Party. At a dinner in which Mintoff presided, guests sang The Red Flag and anti-clerical speeches were made. Gonzi demanded and Mintoff made an apology.
Relations stated deteriorating again during the Integration campaign of the mid-1950s. Gonzi feared that the privileged position of the Roman Catholic Church would be lost to the Anglican Church once Malta became part of the United Kingdom and asked for guarantees which were never forthcoming. The church and its supporters were categorically against the plan for integration and asked voters to vote 'no' or abstain in the referendum of 14 February 1956, floating banners such as 'Meta tivvota Alla jarak u jiggudikak' (When you're voting God will watch you and will judge you).
The Church and in particular Mikiel Gonzi's relationship with the Labour Party worsened further in 1958 when nationwide protests and street unrest developed after it was announced that the dockyards would be gradually shut down and the number of workers drastically reduced. Gonzi condemend the violent protests and accused the Labour party of supporting them. The Labour Party in turn accused the church for condemning the protesting workers while never condemning the harsh repressions by the British authorities.
The antagonistic talk was further exacerbated with Labour's decision to develop relationships with Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization (AAPSO), believed to be a socialist front organisation. On 17 March 1961 Archbishop Gonzi, interdicted supporters of the Labour Party, specifically, the Party's Executive Committee, readers, distributors and advertisers in the Party papers and voters and candidates of the Party. The key issue became whether the state should be secularised in line with modern parameters, or whether the Church should retain its privileged position.
Those interdicted could not receive the sacraments and, when they died, were buried in unconsecrated ground, in a part of the cemetery popularly called by the pejorative term Il-Miżbla. This included Labour deputy leader and prominent novelist Ġużè Ellul Mercer.
During interdiction the political climate in Malta was very tense with the church organising rallies for preparation of the spirit in view of the forthcoming elections. The Labour party rallies were also often disrupted by continuous churchbell ringing and whislting and other deliberate noise by Catholic laymen. Sermons during Mass were predominantly characterised by political issues and so were pastoral letters read in church.
Honours and titles
Gonzi was created a KBE, entitling him to be known as Sir Michael Gonzi, in the 1946 New Year Honours. Gonzi was knighted for his services during the Second World War when, as Bishop of Gozo during a critical phase of the war when supplies were running low, he encouraged Gozitan farmers to put their hoarded grain on the market to bring down the price of bread.
In 1949, on the occasion of the silver jubilee of his consecration as Bishop, Pope Pius XII made him Assistant at the Pontifical Throne and created him a Papal Count for his works on behalf of the Papacy. In the same year he was awarded an honorary LL.D. degree by the University of Malta, and was appointed Bailiff Grand Cross of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Archbishop Gonzi died on 22 January 1984, aged 98.
- Borġ, J. (1984), Imkasbrin fil-miżbla, Dip. tal-Partit tal-Ħaddiema.
- Fenech, D. (1976), The making of archbishop Gonzi, Union Press.
- Galea, M. & Tonna, E. (1984), L-arċisqof Gonzi, Valletta: Associated News.