Malta’s archdiocese will receive €5 million from the government to carry out restoration and infrastructure works in some of its properties, particularly churches, according to information tabled in parliament.
Following questions by PN MP Julie Zahra, Culture Minister Owen Bonnici said the sum had been earmarked for the works following an agreement with the Curia.
The projects, to be coordinated by the Department of Restoration, are expected to be concluded by the end of 2024.
Work will be carried out on churches in Cospicua, Senglea, Tarxien, Zejtun, Zurrieq, Xaghjra, Marsa, Zurrieq, Lija, Zebbug, Valletta and Birkirkara, while a chapel on the outskirts of Siggiewi, on the verge of collapse for several years, will be restored.
The Shift recently reported ongoing talks between the Church and the government over a possible revision of a 1991 agreement transferring thousands of church properties to the government.
The sources said Scicluna is trying to convince the government to give additional compensation from properties sold through the Joint Office to reflect the high prices in the current property market.
Malta has witnessed a significant increase in real estate prices over the last decades. The Shift consulted historical data from several different sources and a property value calculator and found that property in Malta has on average increased six-fold since 1993. For example, a property worth €100,000 in 1993 could today be worth almost €650,000.
The sources added that the government has so far resisted the Archbishop’s demands but is prolonging the discussions to avoid open confrontation with the Church authorities.
It is estimated that through the 1991 agreement, the Church passed onto the government some 38,000 properties.
In return, the government has been paying for the operations of all Church schools, costing some €100 million a year apart from monetary compensation given in the form of government bonds when the properties were initially transferred.
Foreign Minister Ian Borg recently confirmed that negotiations on a possible revision of the 1991 deal started in February after a request made by the local Church authorities.