The St Paul cult in Malta : an evaluation of the contributions of Monsignor Giuseppe De Piro and Saint George Preca
Cannataci, Maria Dolores
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According to tradition, but not definitely corroborated by either historical or archaeological sources, the Maltese islands received their seed of faith in A.D. 60 by the Apostle Paul, when he was on his way to Rome, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The aim of this study is to examine the background of the cult of St Paul in Malta; to investigate the efforts of Mgr G. De Piro and Fr G. Preca in safeguarding the Roman Catholic faith and the cult of St Paul; specifically their contributions when Malta became a British colony and was placed under a Protestant administration; and whether or not their contributions are still valid today. To achieve this, we will carry an exegetical research of the Acts of the Apostles chapters 27, 28:1-10, historiography, modern literary studies. The best primary sources to investigate these two personalities are the archives of the Missionary Society of St Paul (MSSP), and of the Society of Christian Doctrine (SDC). These archives provide the core of the authentic findings of the enormous wealth of religious literature these priests were able to produce, as well as the testimonies of both Founders. Their spiritual and theological writings include books, pamphlets, articles, sermons, letters and other religious materials. When the British settled in Malta (1800-1964), the Maltese were very religious and completely loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, but their religiosity had no sound theological basis. Hence, the majority of the Maltese could have been easily influenced by Protestant proselytism and Freemasonry. Both Mgr De Piro and Fr Preca foresaw the need of a sound catechetical teaching, so that the Roman Catholic faith would be better understood and appreciated. They could read the signs of the times. Mgr De Piro and Fr Preca provided catechetical information and spiritual literature in Maltese, which were almost non-existent at the time; and groups of lay persons were well trained and educated in religious matters. To understand better how the contributions of Mgr De Piro and Fr Preca were so vital to safeguard the Roman Catholic faith and the cult of St Paul, it was imperative to study the history of the local church during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the socio-political situation, and the Church-State problems. This study shows the indefatigable work and sacrificial life led by both Founders and how the Roman Catholic faith was not only saved during the British administration but also became much stronger. In the course of this study, we will investigate how the faith of the Maltese and the cult of St Paul helped to save them from calamities, misery and in time of war; and if the contributions given by Mgr De Piro and Fr Preca are still valid today where the roots of Christianity and Christian tradition are being threatened once again.
- Theology