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Title: The reformation and sixteenth-century Malta
Authors: Cassar, Carmel
Keywords: Malta -- History -- Knights of Malta, 1530-1798
Inquisition -- Malta
Lutheran Church -- History -- Malta
Issue Date: 1988
Publisher: Malta Historical Society
Citation: Cassar, C. (1988). The reformation and sixteenth-century Malta. Melita Historica, 10(1), 51-68.
Abstract: The Protestant Reformation, which began in Germany in 1518, met willing sympathizers everywhere in Europe. The condition of the Church had been much the same throughout Christendom: corruption, worldliness, spiritual lassitude, and immorality had everywhere taken the upper hand. It was in consequence of this unchristian attitude of the Church that anticlericalism, together with the Humanist reaction of the Renaissance to these abuses, gained popularity. This was the atmosphere in which Cardinal Carafa, in July 1542, secured from Pope Paul III the bull Licet ab initio, creating a: totally reformed Inquisition for Italy. In this position he had to fight against all kinds of Protestant heresies. Books had to be severely censored, as printing helped the spread of such ideas. But it was only in 1559, the year he was elected Pope as Paul IV, that the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was published. The effect of the Index was soon to become apparent as it enabled the Church to conduct a policing action over all published literature. In Malta the Inquisition enabled the Church to exercise strict control over books and other publications reaching the island, inhibiting their circulation for almost three centuries. In Sicily the first mention of the Lutheran heresy is dated 1529 at the time of Fra Eremio de Tripedibus, an Augustinian monk of Maratea in the kingdom of Naples, who was also master of Theology, In the opinion of C.A. Garufi, this date is doubtful as Lutheran ideas had, by then, just seeped through the Venetian Republic, then considered the most liberal of Italian States. Unlike Malta in the times of the Order of St John's rule, the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily had steadfastly resisted the establishment of the Roman Inquisition. Liberatore mentions the fact that when Charles V tried to introduce it in 1544, the nobility raised considerable objections. They feared that the Viceroy would exploit it to his own advantage, thereby gaining a stronger position. At times, however, heretics, especially in Naples, were sent to Rome to be tried there. The two Kingdoms, like the rest of the Spanish Empire, including tiny Malta, were greatly influenced by prohibited literature coming mainly through France. Indeed, the presence of this kind of literature in Malta raised fears that Lutheranism would become established in Malta. This prompted the response of the inquisitor who persecuted any Lutheran sympathisers.
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