Konkatridral ta’ San Ġwann, il-Belt Valletta
21 ta’ Settembru 2014
This year, the Independence celebrations take on an added value as we commemorate fifty years since our people took responsibility for governing their own nation. To our credit, since that time, we have made giant steps as a nation. For this we thank God; we also thank Him for the fact that Malta achieved its independence without any shedding of blood.
Later in our history, as an independent country, we were able to become part of the European Union. Although we are a small nation, we are offering a valid contribution as part of this Union. Through our independence, we have become more aware of our heritage, of our country’s worth. As we share our patrimony with other European countries, let us appreciate these realities. Let us safeguard our mother tongue (the Maltese language), the richness of our history and our archaeology, and our Catholic religion, which has always been treasured by our forefathers, who battled to protect it.
We are happy and proud that as a result of our good sense and judgement, and with God’s help, today our country is considered as a highly developed country according to the criteria of the United Nations Development Programme. This prosperity which we benefit from, encourages us to look to the future with optimism and hope, to a future where, in fifty years time, we will be able to state that we have progressed even further.
Two weeks ago, on the occasion of the Feast of Victories, I appealed for national unity, which is built upon justice, solidarity and subsidiarity. I reiterate that unless we are united, we cannot progress; I also believe that our people’s fidelity towards our religious beliefs is at the core of our unity as a nation and of the progress that we have achieved. Therefore, along with national unity, I wish to appeal to our people to remain consistently loyal to our faith.
Independence has bestowed upon us the liberty which we required in order to move forward. But independence does not mean isolation. From the onset of our independence, our country sought to build diplomatic and commercial relations with other countries. We realised early in the day that, owing to the fact that we are small in size and since our economic resources are limited, we were unable to make any progress on our own. Relationship, by its very nature demands interdependence. In a relationship, one must give and take because if it is one-sided, it is not a relationship at all. Rather it could give rise to a new form of domination that is dangerous, this time not political rule, but economic control. We also thank God that in all our relations, even at the level of the economy, we have continued to retain our independence. This interdependence with other countries, both near and far, has led us to commit ourselves to collaborate for the good of one and all. The way forward is collaboration with other countries, even those which lie beyond the shores of the European Union, and for a wider form of interdependence.
In the name of such interdependence, I wish to appeal for assistance to be offered to those people who are presently undergoing great suffering. Thousands of people are being denied their fundamental rights, among these the right of citizenship. They are being forced to leave their countries, or they must escape because their lives are being threatened. Even more so, thousands of other people are abandoning their countries because of poverty. Since they are unable to envisage a future for themselves or for their children, they prefer to cross deserts and oceans, at great risk, rather than remain in such a situation of misery, in the hope that they may find a better future in a country which is much more developed than their own. We have among us several such families who have crossed deserts and oceans hoping for a better future.
Let me once again refer to Malta. In spite of the advances we have made, there are still some people who are not in line with this development. During my pastoral visits, I had the opportunity to call on several schools where I met with students and their teachers. Several teachers expressed their amazement at how many children are unable to catch up with school work because they are emotionally or socially deprived. One young girl told me that she resorts to self harm because bodily pain is less hurtful than emotional distress. Allow me to point out that drug and alcohol abuse is increasing among our youth; also, a great number of young girls are becoming pregnant with serious consequences for their future and that of their children. They see this as a sign of exercising their liberty, but little do they realize that they are enslaving themselves in the process. The human person is free and independent because he is endowed with enough wisdom to choose between those values which are beneficial to him and to the society in which he lives. As such, therefore, personal freedom does not imply separating oneself from others. The human being cannot simply seek his own interests and forget those around him; he has to unite with others so that together, they may seek that which is beneficial to all. As a mature people who live in a developed nation, and as Christians, we cannot shut our eyes to what is happening around us; we cannot close our ears to the call for mercy of our brothers and sisters, both locally and abroad.
To begin with, what about those people who are being forced to leave their countries or must escape because of persecution. In the name of interdependence, I wish to ask, in all humility: What is the European Union, and what is our country doing in the international fora for this problem to be tackled concretely and adequately? Why shouldn’t our country – a Catholic nation – speak out in the European Union and in other international fora so that the anguished cry of this people may be heard and their fundamental rights respected? This is an expression of agony which is a far cry from the plea which our nation makes when it rightfully states that a country as small as ours cannot possibly contain the large number of immigrants which arrive on our shores.
Referring to those people who are fleeing their countries because of poverty and misery in order to seek a better future for themselves and for their children, our nation has committed itself to saving them from drowning in the surrounding seas. When they reach our shores, they are provided with all the basic needs for their livelihood. Our neighbouring countries, some larger than us, are also doing this. In the name of interdependence and in the name of the Merciful God, I wish to express my appreciation towards all those who, both at a political and social level, are employing their best efforts in order to provide our brothers and sisters with opportunities that will ensure a better future for them and for their children. On a personal level, I wish to appeal that as Christians, we will respect the human dignity of our brethren. Same as us who have been born in this free land, they too are God’s children. Let us not resort to any form of discrimination based upon colour of skin, originating country, or religion. All forms of discrimination are not in the spirit of the Gospel and they are hurtful to God! Whenever I had the opportunity to meet these brothers and sisters, they have always expressed their appreciation towards those Maltese people who treat them as brethren, equal in dignity.
Finally, I wish to refer to those people who are suffering in our own country, those who are not catching up with progress because they are fraught with emotional and social difficulties. Institutional assistance is indispensable and I feel that there is already a lot being done at this level, albeit there is always much more that one can do for these services to be ameliorated. I wish to appeal for support at a personal level. I stand convinced that those people who are suffering from these problems can find other people to love them and support them generously and disinterestedly. This kind of aid is as useful as the professional assistance which they require. I urge all Christians to do this. This too is interdependence.
With God’s help, let us draw closer to one another: personally, socially, politically and on an international level, so that the next fifty years will be better than those which have already passed. Let those of us who are enjoying the fruits of an independent nation unite for the good of one and all, both for the Maltese people as well as those who live beyond our shores, because we are all children of the same God.
✠ Paul Cremona O.P.
Archbishop of Malta