From the moment that the Archbishop assigned me the responsibility to oversee the social and charitable action (Diaconia) that the Church in Malta offers, I feel that I have learnt much. Through my experience as a priest and parish priest, I was aware that there were people in distress, because I shared in the daily evens of the parish. However, today my working day brings me closer to persons who are undergoing some form of distress and hardship. There are quite a good number of persons suffering from anxiety, addictions, and other disturbances of all kinds: poverty, separation from their beloved, people without a roof over their heads and without a domicile, persons with disability, persons experiencing violence at home, children and young people and elderly without any support, married couples in difficulty, prostitution, imprisonment, and other scourges.
All this suffering served as a trigger to show our love, both in society and in the Church. After the World War, Governments in Malta took measures to provide social services in order to assist the poor. And these services have continued to improve and increase over time. At first, such aid was purely financial, however, by time, the need was felt for professional assistance. A substantial part of the annual budget would be spent on these social services, where the State not only provides the services directly, but also gives support in financial and human resources to NGOs working in this field. Besides, several agencies have been instituted in order that this service would be offered in a professional manner.
At this point, it is worth mentioning the great work and commitment which professional persons, and other persons whose job is to assist these vulnerable persons, offer continuously. Along with these professional persons, there are also a large number of volunteers who offer themselves to help in this social field.
But the Church didn’t take a back seat in all of this. It was the Church herself, through the Christians which form part of it, who gave ear to the word and example of Jesus, by involving themselves to help, concretely, those persons who are poor and in distress. For quite some time now, various initiatives have been taken to alleviate this suffering. In fact, several persons have found shelter and relief in their suffering from members of the local Church. Congregations of religious orders and confraternities of laypersons were set up specifically to help the poor and the distressed. Various institutes and homes were set up to welcome orphans, elderly people, people passing through the experience of domestic violence. There are also several individuals who, from their own resources, built and sustained these institutes and homes, as well as many religious persons who served generously in hospitals, prisons, even at the cemetery to accompany up to the last moment, people who are in distress.
Over the years, new initiatives have continued to be created in accordance with the needs of people in distress, such as the opening of residential homes for persons with a disability, persons falling within the addiction of drugs, immigrants, and people who found themselves in our country, deprived of their homes and country. . Jesus told us ‘ the poor will always be with you”. Therefore, lately homes were opened to welcome persons with nowhere to live and also for those who were caught up in prostitution. The present Pope is encouraging us to be aware of the new forms of poverty and encouraging us to be a church that welcomes anyone who finds himself in distress.
Help was never lacking, and was given to all those persons and families who found themselves in difficulty, especially those in situations in material poverty. Aid was given to them by several bishops, parish priests, and priests from several parishes, and lay organizations were created purposely to offer such assistance. Money funds have been set up for this purpose. Even the Archdiocese itself began to offer some social services, including those institutions that were on the verge of closing down, due to the lack of religious persons to handle them, but this brought about financial stress on the diocese.
This aid to the poor did not stop at our shores, but spread throughout our missionaries in remote countries, in which may be found quite a good number of persons who suffer hunger and poverty. Aid spread also to those countries, which find themselves in difficulty because of natural disasters.
And today this fiber of assistance to the poor is still felt in the various initiatives being taken regularly of collecting funds and for which the population, inspired by its beliefs, donates its offerings with incredible generosity.
This is the positive thing about us: we have transformed suffering into generous acts of love. It is true that there are among us many people passing through distress, but it is also true that there are, and will be others, who are willing to mitigate this hardship with their concrete love.
Don’t miss the opportunity that you also have, to look around you, and ask the Lord to help you not to pass by someone with an indifferent look, with a closed heart, with a fast pace… but help me Lord to recognize those who are in distress by offering my life, my time, my talents, my belongings, everything I can, and make me feel compassion for them, to the extent of alleviating their suffering hearts .
Today, Sunday 30th April, we are celebrating JUM IL-KARITÀ, a day on which, with our concerted efforts, we can help these charitable initiatives by contributing with our generous offerings during masses being celebrated in our churches and by means of the envelopes which are being distributed with the magazine FLIMKIEN.
Msgr Charles Cordina
Episcopal Vicar for Diaconia