Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 6(1975)4(441-442)

[p.441] Reviews 1975

ARTHUR BONNICI, History of the Church in Malta, Vol. III, Period IV ó 1800-1975, Veritas Press, Malta 1975, pp. 285 + (17).

This volume brings to an end the authorís successful attempt ďto write a brief History of the Church in Malta in modern times and up to date,Ē as he himself stated in the Foreword of the first volume of his work, thereby rendering an excellent service to our homeland.

The Nineteenth Century, which is marked in ecclesiastical history by an intense revival of spiritual values, has had its beneficial impact on Catholic Malta. New evaluations of pastoral techniques during the Twentieth Century, culminating in Vatican Council Two, brought with them a new lease of life within the Church. These positive aspects of Catholic vitality, as resulting also within our local social milieu, have been faithfully portrayed throughout a minute historical analysis covering the first sixteen chapters of Mgr Bonniciís third volume.

Under British Colonial Administration, as well as during subsequent years, although the Catholic Church in the Maltese Islands had been promised freedom of action and even protection, various civil enactments have tried to diminish considerably the influence of the Church. Moreover, certain other movements, antagonistic at times to Catholicism, began to insert themselves within the Maltese social framework, once more, attempting to curtail the prominence of the dominant religion that has moulded the pattern of Maltese life. These other aspects of local history form the themes analysed in the last eight chapters of this volume.

The author, whose interest in 19th Century local ecclesiastical history is quite well known from various scholarly studies covering this period, has been successful in grouping together in a very concise, logical and chronological sequence, a vast field of extensive informative data, followed, at times, by important assessments. This volume is the result both of the authorís own personal research in local archives, particularly the Curia Archives part of which is under his meticulous care, as well as the outcome of various publications whereby recent historical research is developing a due evaluation of our islandsí past. The author has made diligent use of these publications. In such a concise account, it is quite obvious that Mgr Bonnici had to eliminate many details and to fix his attention on determinate data of importance. This may explain why certain historical developments have been dealt with in a very summarised form.

Mgr Bonniciís efforts have produced a concise textbook of local ecclesiastical history, whose need had been sorely felt in the past. This work merits to have a place of honour not only on the bookshelves of [p.442] enthusiasts of Maltese history but in every Maltese home. It will, eventually, enable everyone to get a clear acquaintance of the meaning and impact that Catholicism has had on Maltese way of life.

Vincent Borg