Message by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna

On this holy Christmas night, we remember the beautiful message delivered by the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on Earth” (Lk 2:14). Peace on Earth for those who God truly loves; peace on Earth for all those of good will. 

This year, as we think of and gaze upon the Holy Land, let us pray eagerly for peace and mourn for the thousands of victims of man’s cruelty. It is as though Herod is still with us, waiting in ambush in the heart of every person. We wish to show our solidarity with Israel and Palestine. We pray that, through the grace of this holy Christmas Day in the year 2023, God will soften the hardness of human hearts.

We are almost at the end of this year, on the brink of the new year, 2024, which is a very important year for Malta as we commemorate two significant anniversaries. 2024 marks the 60th year since Malta became an independent state and its 50th year as a republic. Today, I wish to offer my prayer and extend my wishes for a holy Christmas by expressing thoughts inspired by the national poet Dun Karm Psaila, who chose a beautiful prayer to God as the national anthem.

Dun Karm’s prayer for our country

In the second stanza of the national anthem, Dun Karm prays to God to bless Malta with five important gifts. The verse “Grant, God Almighty ,” emphasises that what we pray for is indeed a gift from God. The first message I wish to convey to my Maltese and Gozitan brothers and sisters on this holy day is that we shall receive that which we are praying for as a gift from God, but because it is a gift, it also carries responsibility. In the second stanza of the Maltese National Anthem, Dun Karm prayed for five great gifts, for five treasures, that delineate and provide the foundation of our life together as a society, as a nation. He prayed for sound judgement, mercy, health, unity, and peace. 

The sound judgement that Dun Karm requested for the rulers, for those who govern, for those who have the authority to pass laws, is a gift that is also a gift from God because sound judgement is wisdom and integrity—the desire to work generously for the common good. Our prayer in the coming year shall be for sound judgement and wisdom to characterise the decisions and governing style of those who lead our society with legitimate authority.

Dun Karm prayed for mercy as a quality of the employer, emphasising the need for employers to be merciful, considering their responsibility for others. We are all responsible for one another. Mercy involves more than just forgiveness; it encompasses showing compassion and sympathy. Our obligation extends beyond being merciful solely to fellow Maltese and Gozitans; we must also extend mercy to those who have chosen to live among us. Approximately 20% of our islands’ population consists of people who came here to work and build a new life. We need to show mercy and solidarity towards our brethren, regardless of their origins.

However, on this holy day, my prayer for mercy extends to God’s creation. Let us care for creation, ensuring the protection of the future generations yet to be born. By caring for the environment, for creation, and preserving our beautiful heritage, we show mercy not only to ourselves but also to our children and our children’s children.

Another great gift that Dun Karm prays for in the Maltese National Anthem is health; health for the worker, for all those engaged in the workplace, in services, and in business. Health, in this context, encompasses not only physical health but also mental, psychological, and spiritual health. It is the kind of health referred to in English as overall well-being, and it is the health that secures the future of our country. 

When I pray to God for the gift of health, I interpret it to also mean that He will bless our society with the gift of children. Malta’s future depends on our continued cherishing of the gift of children. However, brothers and sisters, we must admit that the number of babies being born has decreased significantly. This surely does not depend only on God’s gift, but also on a great sense of hope and love that I invite our couples to live with generosity and deep commitment. Children are a blessing and contribute to the health of a country and its future. As we celebrate the birth of a baby, I pray that on Malta’s important anniversaries—the 60th anniversary as a sovereign state and the 50th anniversary as a Republic—we will also be blessed with new offspring, more children, and new generations of Maltese and Gozitan citizens.

Dun Karm concludes the Maltese National Anthem by praying to our almighty God to strengthen unity and peace among us. Social harmony results from a thirst for justice and honesty. Unity is fostered when we respect one another, not only in words and thought but also through our actions. Peace between us guarantees a lovely quality of life. Unity and peace are important values that we celebrate and wish each other to experience during this Christmas season. 

I pray that these five blessings, which Dun Karm prayed for in the Maltese National Anthem for our country, will be blessings that we actively work toward and welcome as a great gift from God. In doing so, we realise that perhaps we cannot achieve these alone but can do so together and with the help of God. 

800 years of celebrating love

This year, the Church also commemorates another important anniversary. 800 years ago, in the little village of Greccio, St Francis created the first crib. I also recall that our saint, St George Preca, used to insist that his associates were to try and ensure that there would be the Grotto of Bethlehem, the crib, in every house where children lived. How wonderful it would be if we could keep this holy tradition alive, finding the crib in all public spaces and in our homes. When we turn our gaze to the Grotto of Bethlehem, we understand that we are celebrating the love of God through this tiny baby in a manger. The greatness of the mercy of God and His love are reflected in the searching eyes of that baby.

Together with St George Preca, before the baby of Bethlehem, let us pray to God: “Lord God, I need You”. I pray that Maltese society will never forget this prayer. No matter how much we develop our society, no matter how far we progress, may we continue to understand that we need God. The Christmas message is, therefore, a beautiful message, a message of hope. 

As Malta begins to celebrate important anniversaries like those of Independence and the Republic with great joy, let us pray, asking for what the national poet taught us to pray: sound judgement, mercy, health, unity, and peace.

I would like to wish all of you, especially the elderly and the sick, those undergoing residential therapeutic programmes, rehabilitation at the Corradino Correctional Facility and in other places, and all our families, a serene Christmas and a new year filled with good fortune and blessings. 

Peace be with you.

✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
    Archbishop of Malta

The Archbishop’s message in Maltese Sign Language