Was Malta supportive of anti-popery?



Pedro Martínez de Luna, better known as Antipope Benedict XIII, was born at Illueca, Aragon, in 1328 and died at the Peñiscola, near Valencia, Spain, either 29 Nov. 1422, or 23 May 1423. He was elected (Anti-) Pope 28 Sept. 1394 at Avignon and deposed at the Council of Constance 26 July 1417. 


At that time Sicily was a stronghold of Aragonese and Catalonian elements and Luna was probably a member of that family that had a long-standing blood feud with the Perollo family in Sicily. 


Luna had succeeded another anti-pope, Clement VII, thereby perpetuating the Western Schism of the Catholic Church. His Roman rivals were Urban VI (1378-1389), Boniface IX (1389-1404), Innocent VII, (1404-1406), Gregory XII (1406-1415) and Martin V (1417-1431). .


There appears to be no record of the Maltese submission to the Anti-Pope.  However, the evidence suggests that the Maltese islands did form part of the anti-pope’s diocese in Sicily. 


The Hispanic-Sicilian influence on the Maltese islands was unmistakable. Most of the noble families of the time were ethnically Catalan or Aragonese,  and the islands were alternately granted in fief, or incorporated directly within the crown of Sicily controlled by the Royal House of Aragon. 

Politically the islanders had a Consiglio Popolare and Universita’ akin if not identical to the Catalan Generalidad


At the start of his term of office in 1394, de Luna was recognized as pope by the kingdoms of Aragon and Sicily as well as France, Scotland, Castile, Navarre, and Portugal. However, by 1398 the French church withdrew its allegiance from the Avignon papacy and Luna was abandoned by most of his cardinals one of whom Peter Philarghi, staked his claim to the pontificate as Alexander V (Philargho was succeeded by Baldassare Cossa under the name of John XXIII).


A later historian the barone di Xiureni Giovanni Battista Caruso (Memorie istoriche di quanto è accaduto in Sicilia, Palermo 1744) lamented the state of affairs as follows: “n tali circostanze piu’ miserabile era la Sicilia: poiche’ fe gli altri Regni Cristiani erano divisi l’uno dall’ altro nell’ obbedienza de’ Papi, il nostro era discorde ancora in se stesso, seguivano alvuni I Successori di Urbano VI riconosciuto da’ nostri prima vhe fussero soggetti al Re’ D. Martino; alcuni altri sotto il Regno di questo Principe aderivano la piu’ gran parte a Benedetto XIII, suo parente, e riconosciuto da lui assieme con tutti gli altri Spagnuoli come legittimo Successore di Clemente, e finalmente abbandonati l’uno, e l’altro degli anteddetti, riconnobbero i Messinesi, e non pochi altri popoli convicini (come accennossi) Baldassare Cossa, che nominavasi Giovanni XXIII.


Luna’s troubles in Avignon were worsened by a prolonged siege led by Geoffrey Boucicaut on the papal palace in 1398, which ended only when Luna managed to escape in 1403 somewhere in Angevin territory. By this time Luna’s pontificate was no longer acknowledged by Portugal and Navarre, but he maintained his right over the dioceses of Sicily, Aragon, Scotland and Castile. France diplomatically declared itself neutral to both papal contenders. 


To bolster faltering support for his papacy, Luna seized the opportunity in 1413 to preside the year-long Disputation of Tortosa, which became the most prominent Christian-Jewish disputation of the Middle Ages where Luna appears to have relished his oppressive role. 


In 1415 the Council of Constance deposed Luna of his pontificate declaring him a schismatic and excommunicated from the Catholic Church; however he refused to stand down and moved his papal throne to Peñiscola near Valencia insisting that he was the one true pope. By now his pontificate was only acknowledged in the kingdoms of Alfonso the Magnaminous which by then consisted of Aragon (as Alfonso V), Valencia (as Alfonso III), Majorca, Sardinia and Corsica (as Alfonso II), and Sicily and Count of Barcelona (as Alfonso IV). - Could tiny Malta have afforded to upset its king? 


In an attempt to upset his own rivals for the kingdom of Naples, Alfonso paraded his loyalty to Luna but by the time Martin V died in 1431, Alfonso reconciled himself with the new Roman pontiff Eugene IV (1431-1447).


Soon after Martin V’s installation Bishop de Mello carried out the 'Rollo' with the overt purpose of inventorying the benefices of the churches and chapels in Malta and Gozo. Might this not have been to undo Malta of any remnants of the past schism?



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