Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 6(1975)4(452-453)

D. FENECH: The Making of Archbishop Gonzi (Union Press), 50 pp.

Archbishop Gonzi has undoubtedly already left a mark on the history of 20th century Malta. His early career indicated his abilities, his interest in the workers’ plight and his organising spirit within the Church. The Church has been the traditional uniting force for the Maltese. Its leaders were not often shoulder square with Malta’s foreign rulers.

The British colonial rule also indicates that the British tried to come to an understanding with the Church hoping that a friendly clergy would guarantee a friendly people. Church-State relations in Malta during the last years of the 19th century led to a rapprochement policy with the Vatican and the Simmons-Rampolla Agreement. It is apparent from Fenech’s research, based largely on documents found in the British P.R.O., that Mgr. Gonzi was considered a threat to Maltese Anglophiles and to British colonial rule. Hence ‘every possible expedient was employed to prevent his appointment, not without serious risk to Anglo-Vatican relations.’

Mr. Fenech gives an outline of the Malta situation when Mgr. Gonzi [p.453] was appointed Bishop if Gozo in 1924. He examines how the British Foreign Office delayed the appointment of a co-adjutor to the sick Arch-bishop Caruana. Although Mgr. Gonzi was populary known to be the right man for the job, many, especially Lord Gerald Strickland and Mr D’Arcy Osborne the British legate to the Vatican, opposed his nomination and tried to press their own candidates. Various accusations were levied against Mgr. Gonzi but these proved to be unfounded — the real fear was based perhaps in Gonzi’'s early labourite attitudes, in the position he had taken in the Church-State dispute of 1929, and in his strong character coupled with his Catholic convictions. Mgr. Gonzi was appointed co-adjutor in 1943. A year later he was made Archbishop of Malta.