Religion in Malta, Age 15+ (2021 census)[1][2][3]

  Catholic Church (82.6%)
  Eastern Orthodox (3.6%)
  Other Christian (1%)
  Islam (3.9%)
  Hinduism (1.4%)
  Buddhism (0.5%)
  Judaism (0.3%)
  Other religious groups (0.04%)
  No religion (5.1%)
St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina
St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta
St Paul's Pro-Cathedral in Valletta, mother church of the Anglican church in Malta

Catholic Christianity is the predominant religion in Malta. The Constitution of Malta establishes Catholicism as the state religion, and it is also reflected in various elements of Maltese culture.

According to a 2018 survey, the overwhelming majority of the Maltese population adheres to Christianity (95.2%) with Catholicism as the main denomination (93.9%).[4] According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2019, 83% of the population identified as Catholic.[5] Similarly, the 2021 census of the population found that 82.6% belonged to the Catholic church.[1]

Malta's patron saints are St Paul, St Publius and St Agatha. The Assumption of Mary known as Santa Marija is the special patron of several towns in Malta and she is celebrated each August 15th.[6][7]

Combined survey figures suggest that around half the population are not practicing Catholics, or adhere to a different religion, or to none.[citation needed]

Religion 2005 census[8] 2011 census 2021 census[9]
Catholic Christian 373,304
Islam 17,454
Orthodox Christian 16,457
Hindu 6,411
Anglican Christian 5,706
Protestant Christian 4,516
Buddhist 2,495
Jewish 1,249
Other 911
None 23,243
Total 451,746

History of religion in Malta

Main article: History of religion in Malta

See also: History of Malta

Religion and the law

Constitutional standing

Article 2 of the Constitution of Malta states that the religion of Malta is the "Roman Catholic apostolic religion" (paragraph 1), that the authorities of the Catholic Church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and wrong (paragraph 2) and that religious teaching of the Catholic apostolic faith shall be provided in all state schools as part of compulsory education (paragraph 3).

Malta, a signatory to the Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights, made a declaration saying that it accepts the protocol's article 2 (on parents' right to have their children educated in line with their religious or philosophical views) only insofar "as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training, and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, having regard to the fact that the population of Malta is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic".[10]

However, article 2(1) and (3) of the Constitution are not entrenched, unlike article 40 which guarantees full freedom of conscience and of religious worship and bars the requirement of religious instruction or to show proficiency in religion. This means that if the provisions of article 2(1) and (2) are in conflict with the rights guaranteed under article 40, the provisions of the latter prevail.[citation needed] With regards to religious instruction in public schools for example, students may opt to decline participation in Catholic religious lessons.

Malta officially supported Italy and was one of ten states presenting written observations when the case Lautsi v. Italy was to be heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights over the exhibiting of the crucifix in classrooms.

Religion and public policy

Malta was the last European country (excluding Vatican City) to introduce divorce in October 2011 after voting in a referendum on the subject earlier in the year.[11]

Malta decriminalised vilification of religion in July 2016.[12]

Abortion in Malta is illegal in all circumstances.[13] Over the years some loopholes (non-inclusion of outer territorial waters, no mention of advertising) permitted individuals to circumvent the ban for limited time periods.[citation needed]

Assisted dying[14] in Malta is illegal in all circumstances.

Same sex marriage[15] has been legal since September 2017.

Catholic members of the medical profession are required by a State Regulation[16] to abide by the tenets of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion.

Roman Catholic church schools are largely funded by the state[17] and, under a 1993 Concordat with the Vatican, they are not obliged to provide any sex education.[18]

There are state-sanctioned crucifixes in every hospital room, classroom and public building.[19]

A prayer is recited at the start of every parliamentary sitting.[20]

Religious beliefs and participation

According to a Eurobarometer poll held in 2005, 95% of Maltese responded that they "believe there is a God", 3% responded that they "believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 1% responded that they "don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force", which was the lowest percentage of non-believers in all countries surveyed, together with Turkey, Romania and Poland. 1% gave no response.[21]

In a report published in 2006, it was reported that 52.6% of Maltese (older than 7 years and excluding those not able to attend) attended Sunday Mass in 2005, down from 75.1% in 1982 and 63.4% in 1995. Hence, Sunday Mass attendance has dropped annually by 1% since 1982.[22] According to Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Sunday Mass attendance dropped further to roughly 40% by 2015.[23] The 2017 census revealed that 36.1% of the catholic population attended Mass on the census day, which was over the course of a weekend in December 2017, a significant decline compared to previous years.[24]

Church weddings have also declined since 2010, with a rapid increase in civil weddings. In 2010 a total of 1,547 church weddings and 740 civil weddings were registered. In 2018, church weddings declined to 1,129 while civil weddings increased to 1,423.[25]

The number of students who opt out of studying religious knowledge in schools has increased. In 2014, an ethics class was created for those who choose not to attend school religion lessons, which are still part of the curriculum. In 2014, there was a total of 1,411 students who opted out of religions lessons; in 2019, the number increased to 3,422, an increase of 142%.[26]

According to a 2018 survey, around 63.7% of the Maltese population considered themselves practicing members of their religion.[4] In a 2021 State of the Nation survey commissioned by the Maltese President,[27] 93% of respondents said they believe in God, and 60% said religion is important to them.

Church attendance in Malta among Catholics
Year % of weekly church attendance in Malta among Catholics
1967 81.9 81.9
 
1982 75.1 75.1
 
1995 63.4 63.4
 
2005 52.6 52.6
 
2017 36.1 36.1
 

Vernacular cult and beliefs

Catholicism in Malta

Catholic churches

Main article: List of churches in Malta

On the islands of Malta and Gozo, which are two separate dioceses, there are a total of 359 churches (313 in Malta and 46 in Gozo). Of these, 78 are parishes (63 in Malta and 15 in Gozo) and six are national parishes.[28] This means that there is a "church density" of slightly more than one church per square kilometer. In Malta, every locality has its parish church, apart from two or three small localities. There are also localities that have more than one parish church, like Sliema and Birkirkara, which have four parishes each.

Catholic organisations

Papal visits

Plaque in Valletta commemorating Pope John Paul II's visit in 1990

Pope John Paul II made three pastoral visits to Malta: twice in 1990 and once in 2001. In his last visit he beatified three Maltese people: George Preca (who was then canonised in 2007), Nazju Falzon and Adeodata Pisani.

In April 2010, Pope Benedict XVI also visited Malta in celebration of 1,950 years since the shipwreck of Paul on the island of Malta.[29]

In April 2022, Pope Francis visited Malta in commemoration of St Paul's Shipwreck on the island.

Other Christian denominations in Malta

Trinity Church in Sliema

Protestant churches

The Anglican church in Malta has two parish churches, St Paul's and Trinity, and one chaplaincy which covers all of Gozo. The parishes are part of the Diocese in Europe of the Church of England. There are around 300 active Anglicans in Malta however the inactive Anglican population is significantly higher.

There is also a Presbyterian congregation which united with the Methodist congregation in 1975 and today worship as one congregation in St Andrew's. The Presbyterian congregation is part of the International Presbytery of the Church of Scotland.

A Lutheran congregation, mostly made up of Germans and Scandinavians, worship in St Andrew's Church as well though as a separate congregation.

The Evangelical Alliance of Malta (TEAMalta)[30] has five churches and two organisations that are affiliated, with about 500 members between them.

The Assemblies of God in Malta forms part of the World Assemblies of God which is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world. Cornerstone Pentecostal Church (http://www.cornerstone.org.mt) is the main Assemblies of God Church in Malta and is a member of the Evangelical Alliance of Malta (TEAM).

The Bible Baptist Church caters to the Baptists congregation in Malta.

Other Protestant Denominations include: Christian Fellowship, New Life Christian, Pentecostalism (including Christian Assembly), New Apostolic Church The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches

Church of Our Lady of Damascus, Valletta

The Eastern Orthodox presence in Malta has experienced a substantial increase. In 2014 there were at least 5,000 orthodox believers or 1.2% of the total population. The 2021 census found 16,457 Christian Orthodox believers.

The Russian Orthodox Church in Malta has its own parish of St Paul, however, they do not have a permanent church, and use the Greek Catholic church of Our Lady of Damascus in Valletta for services.

The Bulgarian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic congregations also use the same church for services.

There is a Greek Orthodox congregation which has its own church of St George, part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Malta until the erection of a Malta exarchate in 2021.[31]

The Romanian Orthodox Church congregation worships in St Roque's Church and is part of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Italy.

There is also a strong Serbian Orthodox congregation in Malta, which uses St Nicholas' for worship. The Serbian parish is part of the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Austria and Switzerland.

The Coptic Orthodox Church congregation forms part of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and worships in St James' Chapel in Żebbuġ.

There are also congregations belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, both of which use the Church of St James, Valletta.

Others

As of 2020, there are a reported 10 congregations and 783 Jehovah's Witnesses in Malta, with 1,245 who attended the memorial of Jesus death that they host yearly.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) also has two congregations in Malta.

Non-Christian religions in Malta

Mariam Al-Batool Mosque in Paola

Main articles: History of the Jews in Malta, Islam in Malta, and Hinduism in Malta

There is one Jewish congregation in Malta. There are various Hindu families in Malta that practice their own Hindu faith, but there are no Hindu temples, and the Hindu deceased are buried in Malta, instead of being cremated.

There are at least 10 places of Muslim prayer and a Muslim faith school in Malta, but only one mosque with minaret. Of the estimated 3,000 Muslims in 2003, some 2,250 are foreigners, some 600 are naturalized citizens, and some 150 are native-born Maltese.[32] The 2021 census found that the Muslim population in Malta grew from 6,000 in 2010 to 17,454 in 2021, mainly foreigners, totalling 3.9% of the population.[33] Of these a small amount, 1,746, are Maltese citizens.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is also present.

Zen Buddhism and the Baháʼí Faith also have about 40 members.[citation needed]

Paganism is also present in Malta, with a community counting at least 100 individuals who identify as such.[citation needed]

Humanists Malta gathered more than 2,000 followers since its foundation in 2010.[34]

Combined, survey figures suggest that around half the population are not practicing Catholics, or adhere to a different religion, or to none.

Non-religious in Malta

According to a 2018 survey,[4] 3.9% of the Maltese population identified as atheist, and 12.9% as non-practicing members of their religion.

According to a 2021 survey,[4] commissioned by the Maltese President, religion is not important to 40% of the population, and 3% said they did not believe in God.[35]

The 2021 Maltese census found a total of 23,243 residents (5.1 per cent) who stated that they did not belong to any religion, religious denomination, or body. Of those with no religious affiliation, a third (7,254) were Maltese citizens, while two-thirds were foreign residents.[36]

Freedom of religion

In 2023, the country was scored 4 out of 4 for religious freedom.[37]

See also

References

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  2. ^ "90% Caucasian, 83% Roman Catholic: Malta census statistics released". timesofmalta.com. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  3. ^ "Census 2021: Maltese citizens overwhelmingly identify as Roman Catholics". maltatoday.com.mt. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d "MaltaToday Survey | Maltese identity still very much rooted in Catholicism". MaltaToday.com.mt. Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Special Eurobarometer 493, European Union: European Commission, September 2019, pages 229-230". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  6. ^ Arringo website, article dated July 28th 2023
  7. ^ Air Malta website
  8. ^ "Census 2005" (PDF).
  9. ^ Census final report 2021
  10. ^ "Search on States and International Organisations".
  11. ^ "MPs in Catholic Malta pass historic law on divorce". BBC News. 25 July 2011.
  12. ^ "Bill decriminalising vilification of religion approved: 'A sad day for Malta' - Archbishop". Times of Malta. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  13. ^ "Europe's abortion rules". BBC News. 12 February 2007.
  14. ^ Abela, Benjamin (15 November 2020). "This Is What Malta's MPs Have To Say About Euthanasia". Lovin Malta. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  15. ^ "Same Sex Marriages | Malta Family Law". family-law.com.mt. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  16. ^ "Official Regulation" (PDF). p. 15.
  17. ^ "Education". www.gov.mt. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  18. ^ "Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Malta on the Church Schools". www.vatican.va. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  19. ^ "Cross in classrooms, a symbol of identity - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 18 March 2023.
  20. ^ "Parliament Practice". Parliament of Malta. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  21. ^ Special Eurobarometer Social values, Science and Technology, Social Eurobarometer 225 / Wave 63.1 – TNS Opinion & Social (PDF), European Commission, June 2005, p. 9, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 April 2007
  22. ^ "Preliminary Report" (PDF). Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  23. ^ "Percentage of Maltese who attend Church has dropped to about 40% - Mgr Charles Scicluna". The Malta Independent. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  24. ^ "Census finds increasingly aging church-going population; only 36.1% of Catholics attend Mass". Malta Today. 31 January 2019.
  25. ^ "Number of marriage separations outnumber Church weddings in 2018". Times of Malta. 28 January 2019.
  26. ^ "More students opt out of religion classes in school, 142% increase since 2014". Times of Malta. 6 February 2019.
  27. ^ "What the experts say about 'State of the Nation' survey results". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  28. ^ Charles Buttigieg, P.R.O., Archbishop's Curia, Malta (24 October 1995). "THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CONTEMPORARY MALTA". Retrieved 15 November 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. ^ Alessandra Stanley (9 May 2001). "Valletta Journal: Malta greets the Pope like a beloved spa client". New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
  30. ^ TEAMalta website
  31. ^ "New Exarchate of Ecumenical Patriarchate in Malta | Orthodox Times (en)". Retrieved 18 March 2023.
  32. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2003 – Malta". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
  33. ^ "Census 2021: Maltese citizens overwhelmingly identify as Roman Catholics". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 12 July 2023.
  34. ^ "Ten years of humanism in Malta | Joanna Onions, Christian Colombo". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  35. ^ "Live - State of the Nation: Majority of Maltese do not feel comfortable mixing cultures - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 18 March 2023.
  36. ^ Census 2021 Malta, p.159
  37. ^ Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-08