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Priests and politicians: Archbishop Michael Gonzi, Dom Mintoff, and the end of empire in Malta

Smith, Simon C.



The political contest in Malta at the end of empire involved not merely the British colonial authorities and emerging nationalists, but also the powerful Catholic Church. Under Archbishop Gonzi’s leadership, the Church took an overtly political stance over the leading issues of the day including integration with the United Kingdom, the declaration of an emergency in 1958, and Malta’s progress towards independence. Invariably, Gonzi and the Church found themselves at loggerheads with the Dom Mintoff and his Malta Labour Party. Despite his uncompromising image, Gonzi in fact demonstrated a flexible turn of mind, not least on the central issue of Maltese independence. Rather than seeking to stand in the way of Malta’s move towards constitutional separation from Britain, the Archbishop set about co-operating with the Nationalist Party of Giorgio Borg Olivier in the interests of securing the position of the Church within an independent Malta. For their part, the British came to accept by the early 1960s the desirability of Maltese self-determination and did not try to use the Church to impede progress towards independence. In the short-term, Gonzi succeeded in protecting the Church during the period of decolonization, but in the longer-term the papacy’s softening of its line on socialism, coupled with the return to power of Mintoff in 1971, saw a sharp decline in the fortunes of the Church and Archbishop Gonzi.


Smith, S. C. (2014). Priests and politicians: Archbishop Michael Gonzi, Dom Mintoff, and the end of empire in Malta. Journal of Mediterranean studies, 23(1), 113-124

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jan 11, 2018
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Deposit Date May 13, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2016
Journal Journal of Mediterranean Studies
Print ISSN 1016-3476
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 113-124
Keywords Malta
Public URL
Additional Information This is the authors accepted manuscript of an article published in Journal of Mediterranean studies, 2014, v.23 issue 1 at


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