“He promised to help Mintoff get his message to the Vatican”

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Cardinal Prospero Grech promised to help PL leader Dom Mintoff get a message across to the Vatican, according to historian Joe Pirotta.

Pirotta spoke about Grech’s role in the political battle between the Church and the Partit Laburista in the 1960s. Pirotta was being interviewed by Fr Joe Borg on 103’s Newsbook Hour.

The historian explained that the political battle between the Roman Catholic Church and the Partit Laburista was still ongoing at the time and was very heated. However, both sides were expressing wishes of reconciliation.

Pirotta said that the first concrete steps towards a truce were taken in 1963. A Dominican friar, Gonsalvo Grech, spoke to Dom Mintoff and suggested mediation between both sides. An agreement was reached, mediators were selected, however things didn’t progress quite well. Both sides kept airing their positions publicly. Pirotta says that Mintoff didn’t want to give the impression that his party was weak and he insisted on a number of conditions. One of these was the lifting of a ban on PL newspapers. At the time, the Curia had said that people reading and writing for the PL’s papers were sinners. These were the daily Ħelsien and the Sunday paper Voice of Malta.

In 1963 Mintoff also met Cardinal Prospero Grech who at the time was an Augustinian friar. Grech told him that he could pass on a message to the State Secretary of the Holy See.

Mintoff outlined the main points which he wanted to discuss and gave them to Grech who promised to pass them on. One of the things he wanted to discuss was the possibility of allowing civil marriages for people who weren’t Catholic. Prospero acted without the knowledge of the Archbishop of Malta.

Pirotta explained that although Mintoff discussed his points with Grech, the friar didn’t have the authority to be able to concede to Mintoff’s wishes so he simply passed them on to the Vatican. Nevertheless, Pirotta says that Mintoff was happy as he found a way to get through to the Vatican. Mintoff couldn’t reach the Vatican directly. If the Holy See were to allow this, it would have placed the Archbishop in an awkward position.

Pirotta said that the Archbishop found out about Prospero’s role when the Vatican sent a copy of the notes accompanied with an explanation to the Maltese Curia for the Archbishop’s reaction. Auxiliary Bishop Galea published the so-called “Six points of Mintoff” and explained why the Church couldn’t agree to them.

Pirotta says the ongoing battle between the Church and the PL intensified to the extent that all hope for reconciliation vanished.

“I don’t know if there was ever any further involvement from Prospero. I never managed to speak to him despite trying several times,” said Pirotta.