John’s written the book on Maltese politics and religion

A Dalbeattie man has written a book looking at the relationship and disputes between politics and religion in Malta.

John White spent time on the Mediterranean island in the 1990s when he was helping set up a new hospital.

And that led to him making connections that helped him investigate the topic in great detail.

He explained: “When I was working out there I got to know quite a lot of people.

“Politics and religion on the island was a very big issue because of the irritation between the state and the church.

“The church at one stage was really ruling the island until Gerald Strickland, who was elected Prime Minister in 1927, took it on and fought and said the priests were involving themselves too much in the state business.

“That was followed in the 1960s by Dom Mintoff, who took it even further. During that time the church provided an edict that priests put across the churches in their sermons.

“They said if you vote for the Labour people or even read their literature, you would be excommunicated from the church and even buried in waste ground. That interested me.

“I went along to one of the cemeteries to meet the person in charge who was the archivist at that particular time.

“He took me to show me the waste land.

“There were two areas – one for children and one for adults.

“During his time as Prime Minister, Dom Mintoff said he would knock down the wall so the waste land could be given the same sanction as the rest of the cemetery which is what actually happened.

“I also went to Gozo, which is a little island attached to Malta, and met a gentleman who had been a young boy at the time.

“He explained that during the campaigning, when Dom Mintoff went to Gozo, his opponents travelled in their hundreds.

“They got his voice completely obliterated because the priests rang all the bells so people couldn’t hear what he was saying.

“They instructed the bus drivers not to provide the transport back, closed the cafes and so on.

“He told me the priests told him to throw stones at these people. It was a dreadful situation.”

John’s research saw him interview a number of prominent religious figures on the island – his perseverance and connections helping open doors which looked as if they would remain shut.

He also spoke to relatives of Gerald Strickland as well as Eddie Fenech Adami, who was Prime Minister during the 1990s.

A photograph of their meeting even appeared in the Air Malta in-flight magazine, much to the surprise of John’s wife Christine.

And he was able to secure an interview with Dom Mintoff himself – despite being told it would be impossible.

He recalled: “I was told he was like a lion, he would never meet me.

“On my last week, I received a telephone call telling me to be at Mr Mintoff’s house the following morning to meet him.

“He said we wouldn’t go into the house because it was bugged so his driver took us into the country. I

“I told him that the priests had told me he wanted to bring communism into Malta. He said that he wanted money for Malta, they were so hard up and poor they needed money.

“He also told me about the time he met Robert Mugabe and how he gave him info on how to keep people out of South Africa.”

John’s book has been published in Malta but will be of interest to visitors to the island as well, with recommendations of beautiful churches to visit.

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