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Roman Catholicism in Malta

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Title: Roman Catholicism in Malta  
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Roman Catholicism in Malta

The predominant religion in Malta is Roman Catholicism. The Constitution of Malta establishes Catholicism as the state religion and it is also reflected in various elements of Maltese culture.

Malta's patron saints are St Paul, St Publius and St Agatha. The Assumption of Mary known as Santa Marija is the Special patron of the Maltese Islands.

History of Religion in Malta

Main article: History of Malta

Religion and the law

Constitutional standing

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".[1]

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.[2] Article 338(o) of the Criminal Code makes the unauthorised wearing of ecclesiastical habit or vestment a contravention against public order.

Malta was the last European country (excluding the Vatican City) to introduce divorce in October 2011 after voting in a referendum on the subject earlier in the year.[3]

Abortion is illegal in all circumstances.[4][5] 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.[6]

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".[7] This was the highest in the EU-25 (the EU-25 average was 52%). 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[8] 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.[9] 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.

Pastoral visits

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.

In April 2010, Pope Benedict XVI also visited Malta in the celebration of the anniversary of 1950 years of the shipwreck of Paul in Malta.[10]

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. [11] The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is also present.

See also


External links

  • 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)
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