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Parish Priest and Community in 18th-century Malta: Patterns of Conflict

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This essay explores the relations between parish priests and their parishioners in eighteenth-century Malta. It argues that pastors did not succeed in governing the community and controlling local religious life. Generally, they were outsiders. This was a great liability since rivalry between villages was intense and the inhabitants were reluctant to admit new people, to whom they were often hostile. But the main reason for the rivalry between the faithful and the pastor was that the people themselves took an active role in the parish. They regarded the office of parish priest as a subservient one for which service they paid the priest handsomely, and provided him with a livelihood. Pastors were to concern themselves only with vital religious services and leave the administration of the parish to the parishioners. The essay also emphasizes that in the struggle with their parish priest the people found the support from the assistant clergy.


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