Administrator of the Diocese of Gozo, Archbishop of Pisa, and Primate of Corsica and Sardinia

Born in Valletta Micallef was the son of Francesco Saverio Micallef and Maria née Sass. He was baptised in the Church of Porto Salvo on the following day. At the age of 15 he joined the Augustinian Order as a novice in the Rabat Priory in October 1838. In 1839, he was sent to Rome to complete his studies, where he graduated in theology in 1851. He was appointed Vicar General of his Order by Pope Pius IX on 21 June, 1855 and by special brief the Pope’s representative in several American Republics. After perfecting his studies in Spanish and English languages, he went to America, the first Augustinian Vicar General to visit this continent.

After his return to Europe, a delegation of Maltese Notables pledged His Holiness to appoint Fra Micallef to the Bishopric of Malta, but another Augustinian Fra Gaetano Pace Forno was appointed in 1861, as the Pope desired the presence of Fra Paolo Micallef in Rome. On 11 December 1863, Micallef was appointed Bishop of Castello in succession to Mgr. Lafferio Turco but was unable to take charge of his diocese on account of the prohibition of the Italian Government, and continued to reside privately in a convent in Rome.

After the death of Bishop Buttigieg of Gozo in 1866, he was appointed administrator of the Diocese, during which time he consecrated the parish church of Nadur in May 1867. After a year he returned to Italy to take charge of his Bishopric of Castello reaching there in August 1867. In the meantime, Mgr Singlau, Bishop of Borgo San Sepolcro died and Puis IX appointed him administrator of this diocese. Mgr Micallef set to work to restore the spiritual life of the two dioceses and succeeded by his indefatigable zeal and constant example. He assisted on many occasions the Cardinal Archbishop of Perugia Mgr. Gioacchino Pecci and at the sitting of the Ecumenic Council in Rome in July 1870, he was the last to speak adhering fully to the proclamation of papal infallibility.  On 7 October, 1871, Cardinal Cosmo Corsi, Archbishop of Pisa died and at the Consistory of 27 October 1871, Fra Paolo Micallef was appointed to rule this diocese in succession of the deceased prelate. Mgr. Micallef arrived in Pisa on 6 December, and his solemn ingress took place on the 8 December.

The capture of Rome and the subsequent denial of the ‘exeguatur’ by the new Italian Government newly prevented him from occupying the palace and enjoying the revenues of his Bishopric. He was obliged to retire to the Sanctuary of Santa Catarina until 14 June 1877, when the ‘exeguatur’ was finally conceded. In Pisa however, he proved very unpopular with the clergy and was finally obliged to request the Pope to be allowed to retire to private life in a monastery. Pope Pius IX did not agree to his request and comforted him and encouraged him to remain at his post. But the clerical warfare against Mgr. Micallef increased in violence. His enemies did not hesitate to use the vile arms of libel and calumny. At the head of this faction was Canon Billieri who after the death of Mgr. Micallef repented the scandal he had caused and in homage to the memory of the dead prelate, he joined the Augustinian Order, dying in the mid-1930’s at an advanced age.

On 20 September 1881 Mgr Micallef issued a pastoral letter to his diocese wherein after renewing his devotion and that of the diocese of Pisa to the new Pope Leo XII, he condemned the action of the ‘sons of belial’ at the funeral of Pope Pius IX on July 13th. Since the year, 1879 Micallef’s health had been very bad, but he had made a temporary recovery. In December 1882 he took up residence in the Villa Tasso (now Antonaci) in Capauola, but his health continued to deteriorate and he died here in the morning of 8 March,1883 aged 65 years.

Micallef was temporarily buried at the Monumental Cemetery of Pisa, his remains were transferred to the Duomo adjacent to the leading tower of the city once a definitive tomb was constructed.

This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.

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