A university confers degrees Honoris Causa not necessarily in recognition of some academic achievement, but in recognition of personal merit. This could take the form of contribution to society as in the case of Chiara Lubich, service to one's country as in the case of a number of Heads of State who have been awarded such degrees or contribution to knowledge as, for example, in the case of Professor Antonio Zichichi, President of the World Laboratory who was conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Science in 1993.
When a university celebrates some special occasion, the conferment of degrees Honoris Causa usually becomes a central focus. The ceremonial evokes a sense of history and tradition. between November 1992 and march 1993, the university of Malta celebrated the quatercentenary of the founding of the Collegium Melitense in 1592. This was the forerunner of the University and on that occasion two such ceremonies were held at which both foreign and maltese personalities were honoured for their life's work. This also included two former Rectors of the University, Professor Edwin J. Borg Costanzi and professor George P. Xuereb as well as the former Registrar, Mr Lawrence Ellul whose dedicated service to the University was thereby acknowledge. On the same occasion, Brother Hilary Clews for his tireless contribution to education in Malta, Sr Mary McCallum as Head of the Mater Admirabilis teachers' training college and Mr Joseph Cassar Pullicino for his scholarship in the field of Maltese folklore besides being a former University Librarian, were all conferred with honorary masters of Philosophy.
And so today, the University is honouring Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement, a model of spiritual life for "in the field of human thought... she has translated the nucleus of the Christian message into praxis and into method of research and particularly has offered to humanistic disciplines an original hermeneutical key of the human subject..."
26 February 1999