The Malta Independent 11 August 2022, Thursday

Religion and the State

Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 26 May 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 4 months ago

One frequently hears talk about needed changes to the Maltese constitution. Issues revolve mostly around governance, executive powers for the President, and neutrality. The place of religion is rarely mentioned.

The Constitution does give a privileged reference to the Catholic religion though the text hardly provides indications regarding what its “privileges” should consist of. What is clear is that since it was included, the statement that Catholicism is the religion of the Maltese people has lost much of its weight.  There has been the penetration among wide strata of the population of other religious beliefs, plus as well the fact that a majority of Maltese and Gozitans no longer feel bound by the precepts emanating from the Chuch – as shown by the divorce referendum.

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Meanwhile, the state has continued to reserve for the Church the appearance of a quasi-state role which ecclesiastical dignitaries use to publicly make observations and give views on public life.

If we truly need some reflection about an updating of the Constitution, I think this should also cover the role in the community, if any, to be assigned to the Catholic religion as an organized body.

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NATO

There was a time when NATO had a presence in Malta, indeed a general headquarters for its regional operations. It would ignore the Maltese govenrent, even after Independence, in order to deal directly and solely with the British government which had a “defence” Treaty with Malta.

At the time, the government had made a move for Malta to become a NATO member but was quickly told this would not get far. In fact the idea was turned down. As a face saver, NATO offered to conduct “regular” consultations with the Maltese government. These would consist of meetings once a month or so between the Maltese ambassador in Brussels and NATO’s secretary general Manlio Brosio.

On their basis, the ambassador would learn nothing that he could not have read about in the papers, though he would send in cypher reports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to detail what Brosio would have told him. I know because I was there when this was happening.

Then the government in Malta changed and NATO was asked to leave the island.

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ELECTIONS IN AUSTRALIA

I followed on the Sydney Morning Herald website the announcement of results for the Australian federal elelection up to when ex-Prime Minister  Morrison made his speech to concede defeat. It was a memorable occasion for the Australian Labor Party which had been in federal Opposition for almost ten years.

It was memorable too for the manner by which Morrison’s government lost – independent candidates, all women, took over in a number of constituences which were traditionally Liberal. And the Greens registered good progress.

It had been some time since I followed Australian politics: I had gotten fed up with the suicidal infighting within Labor between the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard factions of years ago. Now it seems like under Anthony Albanese, Australia’s Labor has again geared up to a new dynamic. But they could well think now about consolidating their position by winning the state government of NSW.  

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