• DISCERN - The Institute for Research on the Signs of the Times is a non-profit organisation directly answerable to the Archbishop of Malta and is run by a Board of Directors under the chairmanship of the Executive Director. It is funded primarily by the Archdiocese of Malta without the exclusion of other sources of funding.

    The Institute has a group of International Advisors coming from the academic world and business. The role of these is to provide expertise and technical support in their areas competence. They also act as liaisons foreign institutions.

    DISCERN seeks to promote collaboration with similar bodies at both the national and international, especially with the University of Malta. It adheres to a policy of equal opportunity and affirmative action.

    Mission Statement

    DISCERN's mission is “to promote and undertake research and formation in order to scrutinise the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the Gospel” (Gaudium et Spes: 4), thus the Church's effort to deal efficiently with the expectations, longings, and often dramatic social and religious characteristics in contemporary Malta. This analysis is based on a knowledge of man, history and faith.


    DISCERN seeks to monitor contemporary changes and developments both in the world and in the Church to help the Maltese ecclesial community in its pastoral decisions and consequent actions. For this purpose the Institute studies the most relevant to contemporary needs and develops and initiates research projects and other services related to pastoral priorities.


    In line with its core mission, the Institute works to enhance public understanding of and access to research and information on the Church's mission by organising courses, seminars, discussion panels, lectures, internships, training, and policy programs.

    The Institute offers consultancy services to Church bodies and other organisations.

  • Organisational Structure


    Executive Director

    2001 - Present

    Rev. Dr. Joe Inguanez
    b. 09.08.1943, Ghaxaq

    Educated at the Seminary, the Royal University of Malta. He read for the degrees of Lic. Sc. Soc. at the Gregorian University (Rome), and for a Ph.D. at Goldsmiths College, University of London (U.K.). Ordained Priest 1970. Member of the International Sociological Association, British Sociological Association, the American Sociological Association, Board of Directors - International Association of the Sociology of Tourism. Former Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Malta. He was also member of the Diocesan Priests Council and member of the Diocesan Representative Council. Nominated director DISCERN (2001). Contributor to several chapters in books on sociology of tourism and of church structures; and several articles to Journal Sociologica Urbana e Rurale. Current interests include sociological theory, especially Symbolic Interactionism and Phenomenology, the sociology of tourism, social change and development.

    1993 - 2001

    Rev. Benjamin Tonna
    b. 19.10.1931, Rabat.; d. 2001

    Educated at the Lyceum, the Royal University of Malta, the University of Louvain (Belgium). He read for the degrees of B.A. (Malta), Lic. D. (Malta), Lic. Sc. Politiques et Sociales (Louvain). Ordained Priest 1956. Founder director of Pastoral Research Services (1960); Director for the Centre for the Coordination of Council Communications in Rome (1965); Pastoral Secretary of the Archdiocese of Malta (1975); Archpriest and Parish Priest of Rabat (1978-1991); Executive Director DISCERN (1993). He has written several books and contributed several chapters in books and reports on sociology and pastoral ministry. In conjunction with Brian P. Hall, developed a value analysis computer test called the Hall-Tonna Inventory (1986).


    Board Of Directors

    Rev Dr. Joe Inguanez,  LicScSoc(Greg), PhD(Lond) [Chairman]

    Mr. Reno Camilleri, B. Sc. Econ (Lond), DPA, MBIM

    Mr John Caruana,.MA (Oxon), M.Sc.( Warwick),

    Dr Maureen Cole, B.A.(Melit.), B.Soc.Wk.(Hons) (Monash), Ph.D.(UEA)

    Dr Sue Vella, Dip.Soc.Wk.(Melit.), B.A.(Hons)(Melit.), M.Sc.(Lond.), Ph.D.(York)


    Consultant to the Board of Directors

    Prof Charles Savona-Ventura, MD(Malta), DScMed(Warsaw),

    FRCOG(UK), MRCP(Ire), Accr.COG(Leuven)


    International Advisors

    • Prof Eileen Barker OBE, FBA, PhD (Lond), BSc (Soc) (Lond)
    • Prof Eamon Duffy FBA, PhD (Cantab)
    • Mr Gordon Heald MA (Cantab), MPhil (Lond)
    • Prof Nicholas Lash DD (Cantab), PhD (Cantab), MA
    • Rev Prof David Martin FBA, PhD (Lond)
    • Rev Francis P. McHugh PhD (Cantab), MA (Cantab), MA (Oxon)
    • Prof Richard E. Rubenstein JD (Harv), MA (Oxon), BA (Harv)
    • Prof Janet Soskice DPhil (Oxon), MA (Cantab)
    • Prof John Stone DPhil (Oxon), MA (Cantab)
    • Rev James Sweeney CP PhD (Lond), MTh, BA, BD
    • Prof Stefano Zamagni DPhil (Oxon)

    Administrative Staff

    • Mrs Delia Mifsud Inguanez B.A.(Hons)(Melit.), M.A.(Hons)(Melit.),
    • Mrs Antonella Ellul A.L.C.M., L.L.C.M. (T.D.), B.A. (Hons.) (Melit.), M.A. (Melit.),  P.G.C.E. 
    • Mrs Graziella Grima
    • Mrs Priscilla Ciantar
    • Mrs Ruth D’Amato DipSW (Melit.)
    • Ms Astrid Miller B.A.(Melit.)
    • Sr. Antonietta Attard SDC