“The hour will come when he that kills you will believe he is worshipping God” (John, 16, 2). This verse is taken from St. John’s Gospel aptly and exactly describes the tribulations Maltese Christians and all those of good will are undergoing at the present time in these islands.
For the second consecutive year, Maltese Christians have been denied what is theirs by right, namely the freedom of organising communal worship and the liberty to practise their religion during Easter time. Malta is the only state in Europe where the churches have been closed to the faithful wishing to commemorate and celebrate that which is dearest to them, namely the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Boasting that our churches never closed because they were open for private prayers is rubbing salt unto the wound.
Last week, Scottish Christians forced the government to revoke the ban on communal worship. Indeed, Lord Braid said that the Scottish government regulations disproportionately interfered with the freedom of religion secured in the European Convention of Human Rights.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre in Scotland said she was “thankful and relieved” that the court had recognised what she described as a “dangerous interference”.
Back to Malta, do not, for one minute believe that the State is to blame for this drastic action. No indeed, this initiative is the sole responsibility of the personal initiative taken by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna following a decision he made without consulting anybody. So much for the culture of the “Listening Church”, he urged us to remember in his Lenten Pastoral Letter issued a few weeks ago. When it came to translating words into actions, the decision was based on the archbishop’s sole opinion, and nobody else’s. We know this for a fact, as the archbishop himself announced that such a decision was his alone, whilst broadcasting his message in front of Senglea’s image of Christ the Redeemer. On that occasion, he stated that the religious rite is not important. This begs the question: if the rite is unimportant, why did the archbishop go in front of a miraculous image, one in which our forefathers always believed in the sacred rite in front of such a venerable image over the centuries? How could the archbishop make such statements when Our Blessed Lord’s healing miracles were all based on tangible rites that He Himself conducted prior to healing the unfortunates who came to Him? Our Lord made a paste from spittle and placed it on the eyes of the blind man, He placed His sacred fingers on the ears and tongues of the deaf and dumb; the woman who suffered from a long infirmity touched Our Lord’s mantle; then there is the story of the placing of His sacred hands on the leper. All these stories from the Gospel are a clear example of the rites Our Lord himself conducted.
Your Grace/Excellency, either you are not familiar with Sacred Scripture or you simply do not believe it!
Prior to your episcopal consecration, another Curia monsignor, namely Anton Gouder, who wanted to cruelly end external festivities during the village Festa, issued a complex document, that mercifully remained to gather dust. He was scandalized by the sight of shirtless young men enjoying themselves during the prime of their lives during the Festa band marches. Your Excellency has, however, done much worse by your actions. You closed all our churches and denied the faithful the graces of the functions inside our churches for the titular feasts that are most dear to them, such as Christ the Redeemer, Saint Joseph – ironically in the Josephian year, the Annunciation, Our Lady of Sorrows, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the Feast of the Divine Mercy. And all this in the name of a humanistic “mercy” shrewdly masked as Christian love for the vulnerable members of the faithful.
Mons. Gouder was wrong in the decision that he took, but at least he had the guts to state that the reason for his decision was due to his lack of agreement with the way the Festa external activities were conducted. He was wrong, albeit sincere in his convictions. On the other hand, your excellency is wrong as well as not being sincere, in view of the fact that your elimination of all external penitential processions and internal liturgical functions was based on the unjustified excuse that these could advance the Covid-19 pandemic amongst us, something that not even the freemasons and the communists managed to do – namely the immediate closure of all churches.
Instead of encouraging your sheep to prayer and penance by the graces given through the sacraments during these ugly times in which we live, you instead abandoned them to the wolves. That is precisely what the Archbishop of Milan, Saint Charles Borromeo did during the plague that afflicted his city in 1576. That plague was far worse than this pandemic, but that archbishop, a saint of the holy Church, showed moral courage and leadership, recognising that the spiritual health of the soul came first and foremost. Which explains why the faithful of Milan followed him in his public witness against the plague.
One imitates Saint Charles Borromeo not simply by celebrating Mass on his altar on this saint’s feast day, something that is easy to do and is evocative of a bourgeois attitude to the faith. One imitates Borromeo when one believes in God’s power and in His mercy. Yet we have acted the same way the people of Nazareth did when Jesus came into their midst. They saw and refused to believe. Our Lord was so shocked by their lack of faith, that he performed very few miracles there except laying His healing hands on a few sick persons (Mark 6.5).
Just one photo reveals the failure of Charles J. Scicluna episcopate. One man bravely knelt in prayer on the doorstep of a closed church. Two young men pass by him indifferently in an empty street except for a pigeon. Both are ignoring his Grace, the believer by performing an action of faith and not staying glued to a screen watching Scicluna. The others are like most of the Maltese – they just don’t care about religion anymore and that means the bishops as well. His Grace has successfully alienated both from the institutionalised Church!
This is the extent of the gravity of this dark hour Malta is passing through. Why do we marvel at this country’s reputation crisis when the spiritual sickness in our souls is much worse?
In this year dedicated to Saint Joseph, son of David, may God show mercy upon us if we fervently pray to Him.