Religion in Malta

The Catholic branch of 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; however, in recent years the church has experienced decline in influence and importance. 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%).[2] According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2019, 83% of the population identified as Catholic.[1]

Religion in Malta (2019)[1]

  Catholic Church (83%)
  Protestantism (2%)
  Other Christians (3%)
  Islam (2%)
  Atheist (1%)
  Irreligion (3%)
  Other religions (3%)
  Undeclared (1%)
St Paul's Pro-Cathedral in Valletta, mother church of the Anglican church in Malta

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 the Maltese Islands.

History of religion in 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".[3]

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. 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.[4]

Malta decriminalised vilification of religion in July 2016.[5]

Abortion in Malta is illegal in all circumstances.[6] 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.

Assisted dying[7] in Malta is illegal in all circumstances.

Same sex marriage[8] has been legal since September 2017.

Catholic members of the medical profession are required by a State Regulation[9] to abide by the tenets of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion.

Roman Catholic church schools are largely funded by the state[10] and, under a 1993 Concordat with the Vatican, they are not obliged to provide any sex education.[11]

There are state-sanctioned crucifixes in every hospital room, classroom and public building.[12]

A prayer is recited at the start of every parliamentary sitting.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15] According to Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Sunday Mass attendance dropped further to roughly 40% by 2015.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

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%.[19]

According to a 2018 survey, around 63.7% of the Maltese population considered themselves practicing members of their religion.[2] In a 2021 State of the Nation survey commissioned by the Maltese President,[20] 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

  • Karmni Grima, Our Lady of Ta' Pinu, Frenċ tal-Għarb

Catholicism in Malta

Catholic churches

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.[21] 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

  • Zghazagh Azzjoni Kattolika: Catholic children and youth organization, member of Fimcap

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.[22]

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)[23] 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 ( 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, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pentecostalism (including Christian Assembly), New Apostolic Church, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches

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

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.[24]

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.


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

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 Muslim mosques and a Muslim faith school. Of the estimated 3,000 Muslims (typically under reported) in Malta, approximately 2,250 are foreigners, approximately 600 are naturalized citizens, and approximately 150 are native-born Maltese.[25] The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is also present.

Zen Buddhism and the Baháʼí Faith also have about 40 members.

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

According to a 2021 survey,[2] commissioned by the Maltese President, religion is not important to 40% of the population, and 3% said they did not believe in God.[26]

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

There has been an increasing interest in Humanism in Malta. Humanists Malta has gathered more than 2,000 followers since its foundation in 2010.[27]

According to a 2018 survey,[2] 3.9% of the Maltese population identified as atheist, and 12.9% as non-practicing members of their religion.

See also


  1. "Special Eurobarometer 493, European Union: European Commission, September 2019, pages 229-230". Retrieved 3 October 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. "MaltaToday Survey | Maltese identity still very much rooted in Catholicism". Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  3. "Search on States and International Organisations".
  4. "MPs in Catholic Malta pass historic law on divorce". BBC News. 25 July 2011.
  5. "Bill decriminalising vilification of religion approved: 'A sad day for Malta' - Archbishop". Times of Malta. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  6. "Europe's abortion rules". BBC News. 12 February 2007.
  7. Abela, Benjamin (15 November 2020). "This Is What Malta's MPs Have To Say About Euthanasia". Lovin Malta. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  8. "Same Sex Marriages | Malta Family Law". Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  9. "Official Regulation" (PDF). p. 15.
  10. "Education". Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  11. "Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Malta on the Church Schools". Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  12. "Symbol of identity".
  13. "Parliament Practice". Parliament of Malta. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  14. 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
  15. "Preliminary Report" (PDF). Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  16. "Percentage of Maltese who attend Church has dropped to about 40% - Mgr Charles Scicluna". The Malta Independent. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  17. "Census finds increasingly aging church-going population; only 36.1% of Catholics attend Mass". Malta Today. 31 January 2019.
  18. "Number of marriage separations outnumber Church weddings in 2018". Times of Malta. 28 January 2019.
  19. "More students opt out of religion classes in school, 142% increase since 2014". Times of Malta. 6 February 2019.
  20. "What the experts say about 'State of the Nation' survey results". Times of Malta. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  21. 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)
  22. Alessandra Stanley (9 May 2001). "Valletta Journal: Malta greets the Pope like a beloved spa client". New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2006.
  24. "New Exarchate of Ecumenical Patriarchate in Malta | Orthodox Times".
  25. "International Religious Freedom Report 2003 – Malta". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
  26. "Live State of the nation, local news".
  27. "Ten years of humanism in Malta | Joanna Onions, Christian Colombo". Retrieved 22 September 2022.
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