Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has taken Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna to task for Scicluna’s failure to discipline a racist priest of his diocese.
Driving the news
“The Church has a duty to talk about the environment, but I hope it also talks against those within its structures who are expressing hatred against foreigners”, Muscat told a rally in Gozo.
PM Muscat was speaking just two days after controversial Malta priest David Muscat insulted on national television a woman known as ‘Mama Africa’ for her 16 years’ involvement in outreach to and integration of migrants.
‘Mama Africa’ – real name Antoinette – said the priest had no idea of the realities facing migrants in Malta, whom she said live “like rabbits” in detention centres.
She said she was disappointed with the racist attitude the priest has repeatedly shown.
“This is not the Church that I know”, ‘Mama Africa’ lamented of the priest’s attitude.
The big picture
Priest Muscat has repeatedly been in the news in Malta on account of his xenophobia.
In September, he launched a racist attack on Victory Day speaker Dr. Abdalla Kablan, and in July he praised Nazi apologist and politician David Lowell, and also ranted about a “Judaic economy”.
Archbishop of Malta Scicluna condemned the latter incident.
In a tweet, the prelate dissociated himself and the Church from the views of priest Muscat, and highlighted that “ideologies that sow hatred and discrimination on the basis of race or culture are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church”.
But PM Muscat said he wanted Scicluna to go further, although he didn’t mention priest Muscat by name.
“I’ve spoken to the Archbishop and expressed my disappointment that the Church wasn’t strong enough in this regard and is allowing a person from within to legitimise racial hatred”, the Prime Minister admitted.
“The Archbishop told me his own thoughts and, while I won’t mention them here, I’m convinced that he understands the issue and the sensitivity of it, and I’ll leave it up to him to decide the best course of action”.
PM Muscat did express praise for Scicluna, however, after the archbishop blessed on All Souls’ Day Saturday a once-unconsecrated part of the Addolorata Cemetery known as ‘Il-Miżbla’.
The ‘Il-Miżbla’ area of the cemetery is home to the tombs of six Labour politicians, including former deputy Prime Minister Ġużè Ellul Mercer, who were denied Catholic burials due to a Church interdiction on the Labour Party in the 1960s.
“Buried here are thousands of Maltese and there has been a wall between those who died at peace with the Church and others”, Scicluna said, also laying flowers at the site.
“Today that wall fell. And I would ask pardon for the walls built to separate our dead”.
“What the Archbishop did was symbolic but powerful”, said PM Muscat, leader of the Labour Party today.
“Time must allow us to recognise that the Bishop’s blessing of the tombs was courageous, we should thank him for it and we must always be ready to extend a hand of friendship.
“He [Scicluna] must still talk clearly about that person [Fr David Muscat] though”, the PM warned.
For the record
During his homily Saturday, Scicluna also prayed for the migrants who have died crossing to Europe in the Mediterranean, insisting that society remember them.
“Their loved ones have lost them and do not know where they are”, Scicluna lamented.
“It is our duty to remember them and care for them. Perhaps we could have taken better care of them while they lived, but the least we can do now is not to forget them”.
24 migrant victims of a 2015 shipwreck that claimed the lives of 850 people are buried in an unmarked grave at the Addolorata Cemetery.
In May, Scicluna attended a ceremony in which a memorial plaque was laid on that unmarked tomb.