AS THE campaign in Malta for the Dece mber general election threatens i.o become increasingly violent. Rape John Paul's recent appeal to the Maltese Prime Minister. IMr Dom Mintoff. for "a profound spirit of dialogue" between C Ihurch and State is seen as highly relevant.
When Mr Mintoff was received ba the Pope on November 12, he was told. that, in its effort to improve its social standards and solve its economic problems. Malta would find strong upport and full understanding from the Bishops and the Holy See. The Pope also said he could guarantee his solicitude for what he called "all those initiatives directed at defining in a satisfactory manner the delicate and complex participation of Malta in the international field".
But, as reported in last week's Catholic Herald, the Pope made it clear that. at the same time, the Church wanted its proper freedom.
According to a text of the, Pope's address to the Maltese Prime Minister, now made available by the Vatican. Pope John Paul told him that the Church's "very precious contribution" to the life of civil society was borne out by the large number of its educational institutions. its social assistance and charities and its values on family solidity.
But the Pope added: "To perform this service, the Church asks for that freedom which is hers by right. having received from God the mandate — which is a duty and a right — to announce the Gospel in adequate forms proportionateoto the very nature of this message and to the human dignity of those to whore it is addressed."
The Pope praised the activity of the Maltese Bishops, saying their teaching on the moral life of the family. on Christian education of children and on social matters corresponded to the genuine spirit of the Gospel. Earlier this year, Mr Mintoff was at odds with the Church authorities, accusing the Archbishop of Malta of supporting the Nationalist opposition.
He banned several Church functions on state premises: and after the reading of a pastoral letter from the bishops which insisted on the Church's rights to run schools and hospitals, he accused the Archbishop of Malta of trying to cause a split between the Socialist Government and the Vatican, so as to help the Nationalist Party in the elections.