‘Church won’t carry out crusade against removal of Catholicism from Constitution’

Maltese archbishop Charles Scicluna says all religions should enjoy the liberty and freedom of belief in a secular state

Archbishop Charles Scicluna said removing Roman Catholicism as Malta’s official religion would not affect the Church’s mission
Archbishop Charles Scicluna said removing Roman Catholicism as Malta’s official religion would not affect the Church’s mission

The Maltese Archbishop has vowed he will not carry out any “crusade” should Roman Catholicism be removed from the island’s Constitution as the official religion of Malta.

Charles Scicluna told Radju Malta host Andrew Azzopardi that the separation of church and state were positive developments for a country, and that he was in favour of a level-playing field for all religions.

But he said that if any constitutional convention had to propose the removal of Roman Catholicism from the Constitution, he would still argue whether Malta should be shorn of its religious patrimony.

“If Catholicism were removed from the Constitution as official religion, the Church would live on,” Scicluna said, making a rejoinder to his own theology dissertation.

“My research on this matter had found that the United Kingdom had never wanted this type of declaration in any of the colonies’ constitutions. The Maltese fought for this declaration, which was the first legal act of 1922 after the 1921 Constitution, a unanimous declaration by the National Assembly that Malta’s religion was Roman Catholicism.”

Since then however, Malta’s independence had prevailed over what was a confrontation between the church and the colonial power.

“Do we need this kind of declaration in the Constitution, today? No. It is a declaration of fact. What’s important is that all religions in Malta enjoy freedom of belief.

“I am comfortable with our religion being on the same level as other religions. This is the kind of liberty I insist upon. It is not status that gives one relevance. It is the people that make one relevant, for example, by their insistence on sending children to church schools, a demand so large we cannot cater for today.”

But Scicluna said that in the eventuality of any convention that proposes the removal of religion from the Constitution, he would argue if proponents were ready to “remove this religious heritage which is so much part of our DNA. Because it would mean removing every single religious expression in state and public events.

“But it would be no crusade: these are certainly not the times for any crusade.”

Scicluna indeed said no church should have any role of power in the affairs of a state, in an argument he made against theocracies.

“I have no such nostalgia for that,” he said in a reference to the Maltese church’s former influence on state affairs. “The church-state separation is a positive development and I believe it is good that Malta is a secular country.”

Scicluna said clerical predecessors like the formidable Michael Gonzi and Mgr Enrico Dandria hailed from a generation of clerics who had been granted power to participate in political life through the 1870 referendum. Both Gonzi and Dandria were MPs in the 1920s.

“It was a generation of clerics who were protagonists against the colonial government. After independence in 1964, Archbishop Gonzi’s mindset then was still that of the former senator and archbishop elected under a colonial government. It was a frame of mind for him.”