Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 6(1975)4(443-444)

ANTHONY JOSEPH BORG, The Reform of the Council of Trent in Malta and Gozo. “Il-Ħajja” Printing Press, Malta 1975, XII-83 pp.

The subject chosen by Fr Borg is certainly very interesting, and quite original and important as far as Maltese History is concerned. Trent has been a major religious, social and political event in European History. At least since Hubert Jedin’s studies some twenty years ago, that famous Council (1545-1563) has been looked upon as a positive attempt on the part of the Catholic Church to rise to the occasion and organise itself better and more efficiently, thus accepting widespread, internal trends for renewal which had long preceded the spread of Lutheranism. Quite rightly I suppose, historians have recently tended to speak of Catholic Reform rather than Counter-Reformation.

The present publication, which is an extract from a thesis submitted to the local Faculty of Theology for the Doctorate in Divinity, deals [p.444] mainly, or rather only, with the Tridentine disciplinary measures as they were adopted by the bishops, the clergy and the faithful of Malta and Gozo (see p. 4). Fr Borg has gleaned a lot of interesting details from the Apostolic and Pastoral Visits, preserved in the Archbishop’s Curia, and, to a lesser extent, from parochial archives. His most important source has been, naturally enough, the complete records of the first Apostolic Visit to Malta in 1575 — itself an off-shoot of the Council of Trent, a worthy example of the new spirit which prevailed in the Catholic Church. Mgr Duzina was sent over to Malta (not at the request of the local Authorities!) to see for himself how far the decrees of Trent had been put into practice in Malta, and eventually to help in introducing or establishing them further. Generally it seems that these reforms or most of them were introduced at an early date by the local bishops, despite their intermittent quarrels with the Grand Masters and members of the higher clergy. In a small, secluded Catholic community like Malta, the reforms of Trent naturally tended to endure through the centuries, and at times the Author seems to be at a loss as to how far he should trace the development of the spirit and the enactments of Trent in this country!

Fr Borg, I repeat, has collected very interesting data on an important subject. I hope someone will one day give us a critical study in social history and assess the effect Trent exerted on the religious and practical life of the Maltese people.

G. Mangion