By Christopher Rails
IFIL MALTESE courts have upheld an appeal by the Little Company of Mary to prevent the government from closing their hospital in Slieina, but the government have retaliated with a new writ.
The "Blue Sisters", as they are called, had applied to the courts for a warrant prohibiting the government's Minister of Health from entering its hospital and from taking any action which would impede them from admitnistering the shospital "freelS. and unencumbered. In the light of the court decision, the government issued a new rtit claiming that the hospital's superior, Sr Luigi Dunkin, had fulfilled all rights to the 1911 deed of donation and that the deed no longer applied. The deed made the condition that the hospital should be "enjoyed exclusively and in perpetuity by the Little Company of Mary," Meanwhile friction between the Church and the Maltese government, led by Mr Dom Mintoff, showed signs of increasing after Mr Mintoff threatened to pass legislation forcing the Church to hand over its wealth for the use of the people, In a letter to the Catholic Herald this week, a
correspondent in Malta says the government had been obstructing private schools for some time, and is now saying that private schools should no longer charge fees. He says Mr Mintoff is "asking for the impossible" and that the government is hiding its intention of closing down private schools in order to make them a state monopoly.
The correspondent, Mr Micallef, says the government's methods of obstructing private schools have included "freezing their fees, treating them like business concerns for taxation purposes and limiting capitation grants."
He adds: "Quite rightly the bishops of Malta issued a Pastoral Letter on education in which they gave the teaching of the Church on the rights of parents and the duties of government to respect those rights in practice while rejecting State monopoly in education."
Mr Mintoff's call for the Church to hand back its wealth came at the end of the Maltese Labour party's three day conference. Mr Mintoff also said that he had given Archbishop Mescieca three days to reach an agreement with the government. The archbishop has replied that he needs the Vatican's consent to take action on the matter.