Malta, is a southern European island country comprising an archipelago of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Sicily, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which is also, at 0.8 km2, the smallest capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.
Malta's location as a naval base has given it great strategic importance throughout history, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moorish, Normans, Sicilians, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and the British, have ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974.
Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta is sometimes traditionally claimed to be an Apostolic see because, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.
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