The Institute for Research on the Signs of the Times is answerable directly to the Archbishop of Malta and is run by a Board of Directors under the chairmanship of the Executive Director.

The Institute is a non-profit organisation, funded primarily by the Archdiocese of Malta without the exclusion of other sources of funding.

The Institute for Research on the Signs of the Times organises a number of think tanks, each of which provides expertise and technical support in important areas of pastoral concern. It seeks to promote collaboration with similar bodies both 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 helping the Church’s approach to deal effectively with the expectations, longings, and often dramatic social and religious characteristics in contemporary Malta.


DISCERN seeks to monitor contemporary changes and developments both in the world and in the Church; to help the Maltese ecclesial community to ensure that pastoral decisions and actions it takes will be most relevant to contemporary needs; to initiate and develop research and other services, addressing important pastoral priorities, especially those related to faith and culture; to conduct research and projects to serve various external organizations.


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 —
Rev. Dr. Joe Inguanez
b. 09.08.1943, GhaxaqEducated 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.

Rev. Benjamin Tonna
b. 19.10.1931, Rabat.; d. 2001Educated 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. Leslie Agius BPharm
Ms Pauline Dimech BEd (Hons), BA(Rel.Studies), MTh (Lond)
Prof Charles Savona-Ventura MD(Malta), DScMed(Warsaw), FRCOG(UK), MRCP(Ire), Accr.COG(Leuven)
Mr. Reno Camilleri B. Sc. Econ (Lond), DPA, MBIM


International Advisors


  • Prof Eileen Barker BSc (Lond), PhD (Lond)
  • Mr. Gordon Heald MA(Cantab), M.Phil(Lond)
  • Prof Nicholas Lash MA(Cantab), PhD (Cantab)
  • Rev Francis P. McHugh MA (Oxon), PhD (Cantab)
  • Prof Richard E. Rubenstein BA(Har), MA(Oxon), JD(Harvard)
  • Prof Janet Soskice BA, MA, PhD (Cantab)
  • Prof John Stone MA(Cantab), DPhil(Oxon)
  • Rev Dr. James Sweeney CP, BD, BA, MTh, PhD(Lond)
  • Prof Stefano Zamagni DPhil(Oxon)


Research Services


  • Rev Dr. Joe Inguanez LicScSoc(Greg), PhD(Lond) [Co-ordinator]
  • Ms Rebecca Gatt B.A.(Hons)(Melit.), M.A.(Keele) [Administrative Research Officer]
  • Prof Anton Buhagiar BSc(Lond), BSC, MSc, PhD (Open)
  • Rev Dr. Rene Camilleri MTh, STD(Greg)
  • Mr. Charles Dalli BA (Hons) MPhil (Cantab)
  • Prof Joseph Falzon TSA, MA, PhD (Northwestern)
  • Dr. Marvin Formosa BPsych (Hons), MA, PhD (Bristol)
  • Prof Charles Savona-Ventura MD(Malta), DScMed(Warsaw), FRCOG(UK), MRCP(Ire), Accr.COG(Leuven)


Research Support Services


  • Mr. John Agius BSc (Lond)
  • Sr. Victoria Sant
  • Mr. Albert Debono BA Youth Studies
  • Mr. Charles Grima BSc, MSc
  • Mr. Julian Micallef BA (Hons)


Administrative Staff


  • Ms Rebecca Gatt B.A.(Hons)(Melit.),M.A.(Keele)
  • Sr. Antonietta Attard SDC


Financial Support Services and Friends of Discern


  • Mr. Alfred Falzon B.A., M.A.(Melit.)
  • Ms Astrid Miller B.A.(Melit.)


Other Support Services


  • Ms Ruth D’Amato Dip. (Melit.)

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