Religion in Malta
History of Religion in Malta
Religion and the law
Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta states that the religion of Malta is the "Roman Catholic apostolic religion" (paragraph 1), that the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and wrong (paragraph 2) and that religious teaching of the Roman Catholic apostolic faith shall be provided in all state schools as part of compulsory education (paragraph 3).
Malta, a signatory to the Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights, made a declaration saying that it accepts the protocol's article 2 (on parents' right to have their children educated in line with their religious or philosophical views) only insofar "as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training, and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, having regard to the fact that the population of Malta is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic".
However, article 2(1) and (3) of the Constitution are not entrenched, unlike article 40 which guarantees full freedom of conscience and of religious worship and bars the requirement of religious instruction or to show proficiency in religion. This means that if the provisions of article 2(1) and (2) are in conflict with the rights guaranteed under article 40, the provisions of the latter prevail. With regards to religious instruction in public schools for example, students may opt to decline participation in Catholic religious lessons.
Malta officially supported Italy and was one of ten states presenting written observations when the case Lautsi v. Italy was to be heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights over the exhibiting of the crucifix in classrooms.
Religion and public policy
Three articles of the Maltese Criminal Code relate to "crimes against the religious sentiment". Article 163 says public vilification or offence of Catholicism and the vilification of its believers, ministers or objects of worship through words, gestures, written matter (printed or not), pictures or visible means carries from one to six months imprisonment. Article 164 extends the previous article to other "cults tolerated by law" but with a maximum prison term of three months. Article 165 refers to impeding or disturbing a function, ceremony or service, whether Catholic or of any religion tolerated by law, carrying a maximum prison term of one year extendable by a further year in case of threat of violence. Article 338(o) of the Criminal Code makes the unauthorised wearing of ecclesiastical habit or vestment a contravention against public order.
Abortion is illegal in all circumstances. Over the years some loopholes (non-inclusion of outer territorial waters, no mention of advertising) permitted individuals to circumvent the ban for limited time periods.
Level of religious belief and participation
According to a poll held in 2005, 95% of respondents from Malta said that "they believe there is a God". This was the highest in the EU-25 (the EU-25 average was 76%). An additional 3% of Maltese respondents answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" with only 2% answering that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force" (the lowest in the EU-25, being matched only by the then-candidate Romania).
Vatican data for 2006 show that 93.89% of the Maltese population is Roman Catholic, making the nation one of the most Catholic countries in the world. In a report published in the same year, it was reported that 52.6% of Maltese attended Sunday mass (down from 75.1% in 1982 and 63.4% in 1995. Levels of attendance are considerably higher than the national average in Gozo (72.7%) and in the older age cohorts (58.0% for 50-64, 71.3% for 65-79 and 92.8% for 80+). Around a fifth of mass attendees said they were are active members of a Church movement, group or initiative.
Pope John Paul II made three pastoral visits to Malta: twice in 1990 and once in 2001. In his last visit he beatified three Maltese: George Preca (who was then canonised in 2007), Nazju Falzon and Adeodata Pisani.
Other religions in Malta
Most congregants at the local Protestant churches are not Maltese; many British retirees live in the country, and vacationers from many other nations compose the remainder of such congregations. In 2008, the seven congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses reported 569 active adherents, with an annual Memorial attendance of 1120. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Bible Baptist Church. The Evangelical Alliance of Malta has seven churches and two organizations that are affiliated, with about 400 members between them. There is one Greek Catholic church, which also hosts Russian Orthodox services a few times a year (when a patriarch comes over from Moscow to celebrate mass for Eastern Orthodox holidays, like Easter). There is one Muslim mosque and one Jewish congregation. Zen Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith also have about 40 members. There is one Muslim mosque and a Muslim primary school. Of the estimated 3,000 Muslims in Malta, approximately 2,250 are foreigners, approximately 600 are naturalized citizens, and approximately 150 are native-born Maltese.  The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is also present.
- Religion by country
- Islam in Malta
- History of the Jews in Malta
- Freemasonry in Malta
- Religion in Europe
- Religion in the European Union
- Christianity in Europe
- "MPs in Catholic Malta pass historic law on divorce". BBC News. 25 July 2011.
- "Europe's abortion rules". BBC News. 12 February 2007.
- "Malta Government Responds to EU's Pro-Abortion Recommendation". Euthanasia.com. 2002-07-23. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- 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.
- Eurobarometer Poll 2005
- "Preliminary Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- Alessandra Stanley (9 May 2001). "Valletta Journal: Malta greets the Pope like a beloved spa client". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-06-18.
- "International Religious Freedom Report 2003 – Malta". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State. Retrieved 2008-01-09.
- 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)