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    In one sense, Mary and the saints are ubiquitous in Malta. Their names are found along streets on small signs that identify houses and as namesakes of hospitals, clubs, and even political organizations. Six Marian or saints’ days are public holidays nationwide: the feasts of St. Paul's Shipwreck, St. Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul, the Assumption, Our Lady of Victories, and the Immaculate Conception. The grandest and most important social event of the year in any village is its feast[link] in honor of the town’s patron saint. Many villages have more than one feast, and at those feasts, the
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    Maltese life has been transformed in many ways over the last 50 years. The islands have become more prosperous, more integrated into Europe, more diverse, more committed to neoliberal economic models, and more secular. Of all the changes, one area often noted by interviewees when talking about Catholic life on the islands concerned changes around family life and gender norms.1 1Undoubtedly, all of these phenomena are interrelated. In addition to the sources cited below, the research supporting this site’s articles on Malta are based on twelve in-depth interviews and many informal
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    Malta, an island nation in the Mediterranean almost 200 km south of Sicily, is actually comprised of a group of islands quite close to each other, two of which are inhabited: Malta, home to about 480,000 people in 2021, and Gozo, home to about 39,000 people in 2021.1 Though part of the European Union, it lies further south in the Mediterranean than the North African cities of Tunis and Algiers. The country’s primary language 1In these Catholics & Cultures articles, the “Malta” should be assumed to speak of the country as a whole, not simply Malta Island, unless otherwise specified.
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    As it has developed over the last millennium, Malta has been both an island set apart with a distinctive, if evolving, culture and a maritime crossroad shaped by the movement of peoples. Accounts of Maltese history are quite conscious of the wide-ranging cultures that merged to form Maltese culture. Rule by the Knights of Malta and then the British, plus ecclesial influence from Italian states, made elite elements of Maltese life cosmopolitan. But in the villages, it was often very parochial. One prominent scholar of Maltese Catholic life asserts that whatever bridges Malta had to other
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    Maltese Catholicism stands out in the world for how visible, material, performative, and public it is. The number of lavish baroque and neoclassical churches in Malta, in villages that often still comprise under 10,000 people, is truly remarkable. Parish feasts , Holy Week processions and altars of repose , and displays of Christmas presepe, all key seasonal events in the cycle of Maltese Catholic life, play a major role in communicating the faith through aesthetics and observation. They are visited for their beauty, as well as for the religious meaning behind them. “Invisible,” non-public
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    In any village in Malta , the summer festa , or feast, is the most spectacular event of the year. More than 100 parish feasts dot the Maltese calendar, concentrated particularly in the summer, even if that means celebrating on a different day than the saint’s liturgical feast day.1 Every parish celebrates its patron saint with a public feast, and many also celebrate another saint in the same manner on a different day.2 1Most public feasts are celebrated on a Sunday, so they rarely coincide with the actual feast day. 2A number of village feasts are dedicated not to a saint, but to the
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    Malta stands out among countries in the last century for the disproportionate role that priests and vowed religious have played in political, social, and cultural life on the islands. For most of Malta’s history, bishops, clergy, and religious congregations organized most of Malta and Gozo’s educational and social services.1 1The ratio of priests to lay Catholics in Malta is still among the highest in the world, and Maltese parishes still have a number of priests each, many of whom live with their birth families rather than in rectories — a local custom that differs from most countries. If
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    Though Maltese Catholic religiosity is still very strong compared to elsewhere in Europe, some Maltese Catholics worry that practice here is in decline and too focused on two occasions: the massive summer feasts that celebrate villages’ patron saints, and Holy Week. On both occasions, large numbers of people come to the churches, and even larger crowds gather outdoors as life-size statues are brought out of the church and processed into the streets. Whether they saw this seasonality as a problem or not, all agreed that both occasions are fundamental to understanding Maltese Catholicism . A
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    As is true for Christianity in many places in the world, Lebanese Catholicism has been repeatedly shaped and reshaped by migration. Maronites likely emigrated to Mount Lebanon from modern-day Syria at least a millennium ago, as did Melkite Greek in the early 18th century. Armenian Catholics established their headquarters in Beirut because of the catastrophic genocide that displaced them from their homelands a century ago. Chaldean Catholics followed more recently from Iraq. Egyptian Coptic Catholics have migrated for work and have built an attractive church complex in Beirut. From the late
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    Asked about the ways that Catholicism and contemporary Lebanese culture shape family life in Lebanon today, Catholics in Lebanon generally suggested that norms and ideals for the family are remarkably similar for Muslims and Christians.1 While many Lebanese women live outwardly modern lives, with equal access to education, the cultural attitude is still explicitly patriarchal, both at the macro and 1The articles about Lebanon on this site are based on in-person research and conversations in several parts of Lebanon in 2014 and 2022, supplemented by the various sources cited here.