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THE YEARS OF SHAME

1961 - 1969

 

Fis Snin Sittin l-Isqof u l-Qassisin t'Ghawdex xewwxu kemm felhu lill-poplu kontra l-Partit Laburista. Qassisin li ma riedux sehem f'dik il-hnezrija gew ikkastigati bl-ahrax.

During the 60's, the Bishop and clergy of Gozo instigated the people against the Malta Labour Party. Some priests who defied these base acts were harshly dealt with by the Curia.

A mass meeting organised by the MLP in Gozo was strongly opposed by Gozitans led by priests in plain clothes. The Police were there but did nothing to protect the rights of free speech of the Labour Party.

All Labour Party's top leaders, led by Dom Mintoff himself went to Gozo. Nothwithstanding the incessant ringing of church bells, shouting of insults and blowing of whistles profusely distributed by the clergy, Dom Mintoff delivered another of his moving speeches.

 

Gozitans from all over the little island were taken over to Rabat in order to make a show of opposing strength against the Labour Party leaders and the few hundred supporters, who accompanied them on that day of shame for the Catholic Church.

 

 

 

The road leading to the Citadel as all other roads around the centre of Rabat, was packed with women, old people and children who participated eagerly in a Church-orchestrated cacophony.

 

 

The Gozitan Catholics did not have any scruples when they used a consecrated church as platform from where they launched their insults, noise and obscene gestures at Labour Party leaders.

It may not have been coincidental that this church crumbled down years later. Maybe it could not live with the shame of desacration committed there in God's name, by the clergy themselves.

 

 

Gozitan Catholics' Opposition to the meeting being held on that island by the Labour Party, was not restricted to noise, interruptions and insults. It included the stoning by Catholic thugs of the Labour Party supporters. These are just two of the people injured.

 

 

 

 

As part of the 'protest' of the Gozitans against the holding of a Labour Party mass meeting in their Island, all life in Gozo stopped that day. No transport was made available and Labour Party supporters had to walk the three miles or so, from Mgarr harbour to the capital, Rabat, in the centre of the Island, and back.

In his study: PRELATES AND POLITICIANS IN MALTA , Adrianus Koster writes about the Catholic Church hatred of the Malta Labour Party its leaders and supporters:

"A peculiar after-effect of the Labour rallies was, the purification rite allegedly performed by the local clergy who were said to go about with incencories 'to kill the insects'.

"Neither were hostilities confined to a battle of words: sometimes meetings (of the Labour Party) were violently broken up, with fist fights going on all over the place. There are several cases on record of church bells having been rung without interruption, while a Labour meeting was held in the vicinity, a device most effective to drown out the speaker voices. Sometimes MLP rallies and counter-meetings or prayers were held almost at the same spot."

The Malta Labour Party based its pretensions for Church - State relations on six crucial points. Archbishop Mgr Sir Michael Gonzi based his condemnation of the Labour Party, its leaders and supporters on the 'arrogance', 'irreligiosity' of these same six points!

THE SIX POINTS:

  1. The right of any Citizen to a Civil Marriage.
  2. The rights of parents to decide whether their children should have religious instruction or not
  3. The right of every Citizen for a decent burial in a cemetery
  4. The right of the police to enter churches to stop interference being made to public meetings from church property
  5. Public morality will be based on norms practiced in Western Europe
  6. The right for free general elections without the imposition of mortal sin by the Church. Every Citizen including members of the Clergy, is equal in the eyes of the law

 

In 1969 the Vatican sent to Malta a Maltese Bishop who was on the diplomatic staff of the Papal State. Mgr Emanuel Gerada overruled the ageing but nonetheless stubborn Archbishop Gonzi, and signed an agreement with the Labour Party. The party withdrew or retracted on none of its principles or ideals. Archbishop Gonzi was eventually removed and replaced by a Gozitan, Mgr Guzeppi Mercieca as head of the Catholic church in Malta.

Mintoff did not mind offering the hand of friendship to his former arch-enemy Sir Michael Gonzi.

They had fought bitterly and each rallied all their forces against each other. Mintoff had suffered personally a great deal from Gonzi's unscrupulous use of religion for his 'political' ambitions. Yet Mintoff showed the greatness of his character by forgiving all this, and it is said, eventually remained good friends with Gonzi till the Archbishop's death.

 

 

Archbishop Guzeppi Mercieca 

 

All the principles outlined and implied in the six points, were eventually incorporated into the Republican Constitution of 1974. Many ex-priests availed themselves of the right to Civil Marriage, when they eventually left the priesthood. This notwithstanding, some of them still hate the Labour Party, and Dom Mintoff personally. Notably amongst these is Priest turned party-political journalist, Fr Peter Darmanin, who for years has been writing venomenous articles against Dom Mintoff in the Nationalist weekly Il-Mument.

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