Abela was for at Floriana, Malta, in 1954. He began his studies at the University of Malta, from where he acquired a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (1976), and then pursued further studies at the in Rome, Italy, from where he acquired a Bachelor degree in Theology (1982). He also studied at the Centre Sèvres in Paris, France, from where he acquired a Master’s degree in Theology (1984), at the Loyola University of Chicago, U.S.A. (1987), and at the University of Oxford, England, from where he acquired a Doctorate in Sociology (1990). He began teaching at the University of Malta in 1985, and later, in 1990, also taught at the Gregorian University in Rome. He was principal investigator of the European Values Study in Malta, Member of the European Values Steering Committee at Tilburg in the Netherlands, and served as Evaluator and Reviewer of social research projects for the European Commission. He was also Non-Governmental Maltese Expert on Poverty and Social Inclusion for the European Commission. For three years he was director of the Institute of Social Welfare at the University of Malta. His research interests included comparative European Values Studies, sociology of the family, sociology of religion, youth, gender, poverty, and social policy. Until his premature death on April 4, 2006, at the relatively young age of 52, he was an associate Professor of Sociology and Social Policy.
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