Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 3(1961)2(59)
[p.59] Rev. PHILIP CALLUS, D.D., B.A., The Rising of the Priests, Malta University Press, 5/-.
The author deserves our congratulations for the comprehensive manner in which an interesting and intriguing period in the history of these Islands has been surveyed.
The subject is introduced to the reader in simple language giving the historical background of the gradual suppression by the Knights of St. John of ancient privileges enjoyed by the Maltese since the days of the Argonese which generated strong resentment. This state of affairs prompted many to place themselves and their property under the protection of the Bishop or that of the Inquisitor; thus rendering the administration of these Islands more difficult and complicated due to the exercise of the various immunities.
Considering the presence, in the limited physical space available, of three separate ruling bodies, albeit all religious, that is, the Knights of St. John, the Bishop and the Inquisitor and keeping in mind the temperaments of the period it is easy to conclude that friction was unavoidable. In fact provocations and reprisals were too frequent from all sides. In a way it appears justifiable that the Knights would attempt to centralize within their grasp as much executive control as was possible since theirs was the final responsibility for the defence of this Island-Fortress.
The situation crystallised in 1775, by what has become known as the Rising of the Priests. This episode by the speculation of so many different and conflicting interests has rendered the protagonists particularly Don Gaetano Mannarino in the light ranging from a traitor to a patriot according to the feelings of, the party.
Due to inadequate independent authorative sources of information and Rev. Philip Callus quotes Francesco Laferla — "Una Giustizia Storica — Don Gaetano Mannarino nella Luce Dei Documenti" — as the only complete historical account of this ill-advised and badly executed event. A signal service to historical interests has been rendered by the publication as appendices, in many instances for the first time, of various documents notably the three reports on the rising, viz. that submitted by the Vicar General to the Bishop of Malta, the Inquisitor's and that rendered by the Judges commissioned by command of the "Order" to examine the prisoners. Also, published are the "Briefs" authorising the trial and the Motu Proprio of Pius VI.
Notwithstanding a promise of impunity one of the rebels was executed, two were imprisoned for life, and, eleven were exiled.
This is the sort of book which commends itself to all those who interest themselves in the serious study of the history of their homeland. Readers would be amply satisfied with the authorative material contained therein.
W. F. Bellizzi