The Archbishop of Malta blesses tombs in the Addolorata Cemetery

Maltese ex-minister, historian praise archbishop for “boldest step” of blessing interdicted politicians’ tombs

A former Labour minister and an historian have praised Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna for blessing the tombs of politicians punished by the Church in the 1960s.

Driving the news

“Though years ago Archbishop Joseph Mercieca [Archbishop of Malta from 1976-2006] had apologised, Mgr Charles Scicluna’s unexpected gesture went a step further and was the boldest step ever”, Labour Party stalwart Joseph Micallef Stafrace told the Times of Malta.

As a Labour minister in the 70s, Micallef Stafrace was himself once under Church interdict.

Among other things, that punishment bars individuals from receiving the Catholic sacraments, such as a Catholic burial.

But on All Souls’ Day Saturday Archbishop Scicluna blessed the section of the Addolorata Cemetery known as Il-Miżbla (“rubbish dump” in Maltese) where interdicted politicians, as well as unbaptised babies and other excommunicated souls, are buried.

The archbishop laid a wreath at the tomb of interdicted former deputy prime minister Ġużé Ellul Mercer, and asked forgiveness “for the walls built to separate our dead”.

“It was a very commendable gesture and I am convinced that the Archbishop was very honest in his words and deed”, Micallef Stafrace said of Scicluna’s visit to the cemetery.

“In the wake of Pope Francis’ remarks, who asked under what right are we allowed to judge others, the archbishop’s gesture has even more significance”, the politician added.

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Why it matters

Joseph M. Pirotta, a Maltese political historian, explained to the Times of Malta that Scicluna’s act was full of “historic significance”.

“Archbishop Scicluna’s action (for this positive act is no mere gesture), will hopefully bring closure not only to family members of those directly involved but also contribute towards closing a social and political wound that has festered much too long”, Pirotta said.

“It was an unhappy period of our history from which we should draw appropriate lessons, concentrate on not forgetting them, while forgiving and forgetting each other’s errors of judgement”.

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For the record

Scicluna’s visit to the Addolorata Cemetery cameafter he presented a new book in which he argues that the current moves to reform Malta’s Constitution should continue to uphold Catholicism as the country’s religion.

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By giving pride of place to Catholicism in Malta, “the Constitution declares a fact which is also a historic fact and history cannot reinvent it”, Scicluna said last week at the launch of his book Religion and the 1921 Malta Constitution.

“More than being concerned” with attempts to downplay the role of Catholicism in Malta’s national life, the archbishop explained, “my appeal is that before we decide, we study and our decision is made with open eyes”.

“We cannot cancel the whole heritage we embraced during these two thousand years”, Scicluna said, warning that attempts to do away with Catholicism in the Constitution would certainly not create social peace “but probably create social tension”.

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