Catholic Voices Malta Position Paper on the Equality Bill and Parents’ and Children’s rights to a Catholic education, and other concerns

CATHOLIC VOICES MALTA POSITION PAPER ON THE EQUALITY BILL

The Equality Bill and Parents’ and Children’s rights to a Catholic education, and other concerns

Catholic Voices Malta can only be in favour of those measures that the Government and society take to ensure that equality for all while at the same time respecting diversity.

As Catholics, and as emphasised in the Catechism of the Catholic Church para 1934  we are all “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin…. All therefore enjoy an equal dignity.” (CCC para. 1934)

“Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.”  (CCC para. 1935)

While there are those in society who believe that to attain social well-being and equality society must be homogeneous in thought.   This may indeed sound good however history has thought us that this is not the case.   Humanity is full of diversity, different opinions, beliefs, races, etc.   Social well-being is attained when differences are respected rather than eliminated or coerced to change, a process that intrinsically involves conflict.

On a global sphere we have seen ethnic cleansing, the holocaust, the inquisition, communism, and more recent ideological bashing to try and eliminate differences, silence dissent and cleanse society of what is deemed impure.

The Equality bill cannot be a tool to promote an ideological agenda, whatever that might be.   To serve the public good what it needs to defend is the principle of “equal dignity” and not “homogeneity” something which communism attempted and failed miserably.  Nobody should be treated less favourably in any sphere of life, and the Equality Bill should be the tool that ensures this.

We believe that in many of its provision the proposed Equality Bill seeks to do this by bringing together existing relevant provisions on equality legislation and enhance other areas.

However we would like to raise a number of concerns to Parliament that is presently considering this Bill to some aspects that go beyond the legitimate principles of equality and cause concern as the Bill seeks to address equality by attempting to eliminate differences.

At a European Union level this balance is well struck, understanding that differences are also very different in Member States and that the strength of the Union is in its diversity.   With legislation passed so far seeking to reasonably apply the principle of equality rather then imposing uniformity.

 

Preamble

Malta’s educational system is founded on three institutional pillars, State Schools, Church Schools, and the later development of Independent Schools.

Thousands of parents have chosen a Catholic education for their children, and this not limited to Church Schools since a number of independent schools have also chosen a Catholic education framework as their ethos.

There are also other schools that embrace other faith-based ethos, like Mariam AlBatool Islamic School in Paola.

The parents of these children consciously and voluntarily choose to send their children to a school that has Catholic teaching as the basis of its educational curriculum, not co-incidentally, but out of choice.   This choice is desired by many other parents who unfortunately due to the limitation of spaces in Church Schools where not fortunate in the entry ballot and had to opt for other alternatives.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that parents have the right to choose the education they want for their children. Moreover, the signatories included this principle among the basic rights that a State can never abrogate or manipulate.

In Article 14 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, clause 3 it is further affirmed “The freedom to found educational establishments with due respect for democratic principles and the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions shall be respected, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of such freedom and right”.

Through provisions of article 14 of the Bill, the State is seeking to limit Catholic education should inspire and guide Christian behaviour and action in society to religion lessons.  Unfortunately, this reflects a lack of appreciation of what Catholic education is about and adopts a very restrictive view that goes completely against the spirt of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is therefore very preoccupying that whilst the Equality Bill has the laudable intention of introducing a legal framework that can ensure that nobody would be treated less favourably in any sphere of life, it appears that the Bill to achieve this aim seeks to impinge on the rights of parents and we need to ensure that the opposite does not happen to Catholics in choice of ethos-based education that they choose for their children when they elect to send them to a Church school.

The European Parents’ Association – Parents Rights Charter lists the rights and duties of parents in Europe. Amongst these rights and duties are the following:

Parents have the right to make a choice for the education which is closest to their convictions and to the values they hold dear in raising their children and the freedom to found educational establishments with due respect for democratic principles.

Parents have the duty to make well-informed and conscientious choices about the education their children should receive.

Parents have the right to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical, and pedagogical convictions. The formal education system shall respect for the spiritual and cultural background of the children.

 

The Catholic Ethos of Education

In line with what Pope Benedict XVI had stated about catholic educational institutions that their primary mission is to allow students to “encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth” the State needs to guarantee that Church schools are given the possibility ensure that they fulfil three primary objectives:  to provide an environment in which students are enabled to build and deepen their relationship with God; to foster an academic culture aimed at the pursuit of truth; and to actively promote growth in virtue.

To date this is very true of Catholic schools and colleges in Malta, whose ethos, apart from providing excellent comprehensive education, is the formation of the child holistically and for the child to experience and live in a relationship with Jesus.

The proposed legislation does not present very clear and definite boundaries of what would be legally prohibited or permitted by schools in the teaching of their curricula and this gives rise to the risk that the relativistic mindset that proclaims that all truths are equal and the secular truth more equal than others.  This imposes on Catholic schools to separate the teaching religion from other education because under this wrong mindset they have nothing to do with each other.

What is really being proposed by secularist movements is that the pupil should replace whatever god he believes in with the secular god. Catholic education is based on the unquestionable tenet that the only proper way to educate is by providing a formation that centres on Christ alone. It is for this reason that Article 14 of the proposed Act is of grave concern to us.

The Church regards the dignity of the human person as the foundation of all the other principles and content of the Church’s social doctrine (Compendium of the Social Doctrine [CSD], no. 160).  The principle of human dignity also has implications for education.  Firstly, because education cannot be separated from the formation of the human person and the development of his vocation — whether secular or religious — restricting basic freedom in education is a restriction on freedom of conscience, the rights of parents and the freedom of religion more generally.  Unduly restricting freedom in education and imposing the state’s or a group’s or person’s conception of education on all families would be to subordinate the person to society.  In this respect, the right to religious freedom is paramount in the Church’s social teaching.  People should not be forced to act contrary to their religious convictions (Dignitatis Humanae, no. 2) and to prevent a family from educating children in the faith would be to do just that. It is for this reason that the State need to ensure that nothing in the proposed Bill will give rise to any potential act that will limit the rights of parents and the freedom of religion more generally.

“Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.”(Gravissimum Educationis [GE], no. 2). This freedom belongs to parents because of our God-given nature and the gift of free will that is given to us: “Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education.” “Besides, the right of parents are violated, if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs, or if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all (Dignitatis Humanae, no. 5).”

Given that freedom in education is an extension of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion more generally, it is important to note that the Catholic Voices is not calling for any special privileges for Catholic parents and children but simply the respect of their basic human rights.

It must be kept in mind that Catholic education not only teaches general education, but also balances education with deep spiritual immersion. Catholic education is very active in teaching a child that God is in their life and all around him/her. A child will learn how to see these “footprints of God” in their daily lives. As a child’s awareness of God develops, he or she also becomes an instrument of God’s grace in the family, community and in the world.

For that reason, Catholic schools cannot limit themselves to scholastic excellence. They must aim to offer formation and transformation at the same time. They must be an agent of that metanoia (or inner change) that should be typical of the life of every Christian, seconding God’s grace in bringing about in students a profound change so that they are empowered to produce improved conditions for the poor, the needy and those unjustly treated.

Safeguarding the distinctness of all education systems

We need to understand that not all education systems are the same. Each school or educational system has its own principles and philosophies that govern how they teach and develop a child. We fear that the Act in the current proposed version could hinder and possibly result in prohibiting Church schools from imparting education based on their particular Catholic ethos.

Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools especially the right to send their children to a Catholic school that creates for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity, to help youth develop their own personalities so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith.

It is the clear teaching of the Church, constantly reiterated by the Holy See, that parents are the first educators of their children. Parents have the original, primary, and inalienable right to educate them in conformity with the family’s moral and religious convictions. They are educators precisely because they are parents. At the same time, most parents share their educational responsibilities with other individuals and/or institutions, primarily the school. It is for this reason that we believe that the Bill should protect the right of parents to ensure that the school to which they chose to send their children to is allowed to foster its particular ethos in the education of their children.

The enduring foundation on which the Church builds her educational philosophy is the conviction that it is a process which forms the whole child, especially with his or her eyes fixed on the vision of God. The specific purpose of a Catholic education is not only the formation of boys and girls who will be good citizens of this world but also to enrich society with the values of the Gospel, and who will also be good citizens of the world to come. Catholic schools have a defined goal: to foster the growth of good Catholic human beings who love God and neighbor.

The Holy See’s documents insist that, to be worthy of its name, a Catholic school must be founded on Jesus Christ the Redeemer who, through his Incarnation, is united with each student. Christ is not an after-thought or an add-on to Catholic educational philosophy but the centre and fulcrum of the entire enterprise, the light enlightening every pupil who comes into our schools (cf. Jn 1:9).

The Gospel of Christ and his very person are, therefore, to inspire and guide the Catholic school in its every dimension: its philosophy of education, its curriculum, community life, its selection of teachers, and even its physical environment. As John Paul II wrote in his 1979 message to the National Catholic Educational Association of the United States: “Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others.”

Catholicism should permeate not just the class period of catechism or religious education, or the school’s pastoral activities, but the entire curriculum. The Vatican documents speak of “an integral education, an education which responds to all the needs of the human person.” This is why the Church establishes schools: because they are a privileged place which fosters the formation of the whole person. An integral education aims to develop gradually every capability of every student: their intellectual, physical, psychological, moral and religious dimensions. It is “intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person.”

We believe that to be integral or “whole,” Catholic schooling must be constantly inspired and guided by the Gospel. A Catholic school would betray its purpose if it failed to take as its touchstone the person of Christ and his Gospel: “It derives all the energy necessary for its educational work from him.”

Because of the Gospel’s vital and guiding role in a Catholic school, we might be tempted to think that the identity and distinctiveness of Catholic education lies in the quality of its religious instruction, catechesis and pastoral activities. Nothing is further from the position of the Holy See. Rather, the Catholic school is Catholic even apart from such programs and projects. It is Catholic because it undertakes to educate the whole person, addressing the requirements of his or her natural and supernatural perfection. It is integral and Catholic because it provides an education in the intellectual and moral virtues, because it prepares for a fully human life at the service of others and for the life of the world to come.

Thus, instruction should be authentically Catholic in content and methodology across the entire program of studies. Catholic schools should always conform to required curricula, but they should be allowed to implement their programs within an overall religious perspective.

The use of Catholic Symbols by Church and Catholic Schools Organisations

The use by Catholic schools of external signs of Catholic culture through images, signs, symbols, icons and other objects of traditional devotion is another right that may be challenged by this Bill. We are afraid that given the vague assertions of rights and the vague understanding of what may be interpreted to be discrimination, the Bill might also end up impinging on the use of such symbols by Church schools especially in external communication.

Role of Teachers in Catholic Schools 

We would also like to make a few observations about the vital role teachers play in ensuring a school’s Catholic identity. With them lies the primary responsibility for creating a unique Christian school climate, as individuals and as a community. Indeed, “it depends chiefly on them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose.” Consequently, the Holy See’s documents pay considerable attention to the vocation of teachers and their specific participation in the Church’s mission. Theirs is a calling and not simply the exercise of a profession. In a word, those involved in Catholic schools, with very few exceptions, should be practicing Catholics committed to the Church and living her sacramental life. Despite the difficulties involved we need teachers with a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. The careful hiring of men and women who enthusiastically endorse a Catholic ethos is a primary way to foster a school’s catholicity.

It is for this reason that we agree with the Church’s position that nothing in the Bill should prejudice the right of Churches and other public or private organisations, the ethos of which is based on belief, creed or religion, to require individuals working for them to act in good faith and with loyalty to the organisation’s ethos.

We believe that as well as fostering a Catholic view throughout the curriculum, even in so-called secular subjects, “if students in Catholic schools are to gain a genuine experience of the Church, the example of teachers and others responsible for their formation is crucial: the witness of adults in the school community is a vital part of the school’s identity.” Children will pick up far more by example than by masterful pedagogical techniques, especially in the practice of Christian virtues.

It is for this reason that educators at every level in the Church are expected to be models for their students by bearing transparent witness to the Gospel.

The prophetic words of Pope Paul VI ring as true today as they did fifty five years ago: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” What teachers do and how they act are more significant than what they say – inside and outside the classroom.

 

Other aspects of the Bill for which we have concern

We also would like to subscribe to several concerns raised also by the Catholic Church in Malta in its document of February 2020 entitled “The Equality Bill and Religious Freedom”.

The right to manifest one’s faith individually and collectively

Religious freedom comprises three basic dimensions: an individual dimension (the right of the individual to choose one’s own system of belief) and a collective dimension (the right to associate with others sharing the same creed) and an institutional dimension or the right of faith communities to be recognised as social actors in their own right and having their own specific ethos.

As already elaborated, religion, is not a set of ideas and beliefs that an individual is entitled to hold.  Christianity is a way of life having its external dimension and so religious freedom, includes the right to manifest one’s religion, to act in accordance with religious rules and convictions in daily life and to establish, organise and manage those institutions required by the specific aims of particular religions.

Unfortunately, the bill is very limiting when it refers to ‘religious services’ in Article 6 having a clear underlying assumption that religious practice is separate from other social practices.

However, the primary role of the Church, not merely as an institution but also its faithful is to evangelise.  By its very nature, evangelisation requires engagement in society, through the proclamation of the work, i.e. the message of the gospel and good work, acts of charity and social justice.   For this very purpose the Church in it history developed the Social Teaching of the Church as it sees here a very important active role for the laity guided by the valued of the gospel.

The Churches was and still is involved in various charitable and educational activities, healthcare, running of elderly homes, supporting people with addiction difficulties, care for orphan children, counselling, and various other forms of ministry with families, youth and children. The engagement of the Churches in such activities has a religious dimension which should be respected by avoiding the imposition of any measure that can hinder them from giving that added value which they believe their faith can give to human life.

Where there is conflict between Christian belief and other ideologies, and the Bill’s attempt to define ‘religious services’ is a cause of concern as this could be used to effectively restrict religious freedom in its extent and form.

We expect that in no manner or form does the Bill restrict the religious freedom safeguarded by international conventions such as the on a European level the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention of Human Rights. The text in Article 10 (1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union affirms that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, practice and observance”

The right to freedom of thought conscience and religion constitutes one of the foundations of a pluralistic society.  In line with a broad understanding of religious freedom, the European Union adopts a qualified approach to the implementation of the principle of equal treatment, as it seeks to enforce equality while respecting diversity.

Regrettably, the Bill does not respect this balance, in provisions proposed in relation to advertising, employment and education.  It is our legitimate expectation that the Maltese Legislator should find a more appropriate way to adapt these principles for the local circumstances and to implement the equality principle without infringing on any one of the fundamental dimensions of the right to religious freedom.

The issue of conscientious objection

The Bill is completely silent on the “right to conscientious objection”.  Considering the orientation this Bill has taken in several areas, this right needs to be safeguarded and regulated by the State.  This also in view that Article 10 (2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights that establishes the right to conscientious objection leaves it up to the Member States to regulate these matters.

The vague definition of harassment’ and ‘victim’

The Bill’s vague definitions of ‘harassment’ and ‘victim’ creates a situation for expansive subjective interpretations.   The Bill states that direct discrimination shall be deemed to occur where a person is treated less favourably than another person is, has been, or would be, treated in a comparable situation, on the basis of any one or a combination of any of the protected characteristics; Moreover, the Bill continues to clarify that “‘harassment’ shall be deemed to occur where an unwanted conduct related to one or more of the protected characteristics laid down under this Act, has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”. [5. (3) c]

The Bill goes further to define ‘indirect harassment’ as any treatment based on an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice, which would put persons having any one or a combination of any of the protected characteristics at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.

Can these provisions be explained to normal well-meaning citizens or are we restricting the freedom of speech due to the uncertainty that will be accused for what can and cannot be said?

The procedure by which a person may be accused of wrongdoing, also placing the burden of proof on the accused, is totally unfair and is clear in violation of basic principles of justice.   We are indeed concerned with these provisions as in countries where similar provisions have been enacted we have seen well meaning individuals been target of ideologically motivated groups that seek to silence dissenting opinions in areas especially related to gender orientation.  This goes against the spirit of the bill and is a double-edged sword that can be used by various groups to silence other people’s legitimate opinions.

Advertising

We have already touched upon the point on our focus of Catholic Education and re-iterate our concern on the broad definition of advertising that may be interpreted to include even religious activities.  As the proposed legislation is shifting the burden of proof from the one making the allegation of misconduct to the defendant, the freedom of individuals and organisations, including Churches and faith-based communities, will be placed under severe and unnecessary constraints in presenting their own beliefs and convictions.

Access to Goods and Services

We are concern that the provisions of the law in relation to access to goods and services can out

Christian or other entrepreneurs of other faith into a conflict of conscience going against their right to religious freedom and consciousness objection.

Let us hope we don’t see in our court being dragged with silly cases about wedding cakes merely to prove a point or to attack an entrepreneur who has a genuine objective reason why to refuse to provide a service.  The provisions as they stand include far more serious situations then cakes and can involve the lives of unborn children as in the case of abortion and other similar situations.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Catholic Voices sees in Catholic schools an enormous heritage and an indispensable instrument in carrying out the Church’s mission in the third Christian millennium. Parents who have chosen to send their children to Church schools need Government to guarantee that Church schools will retain their Catholic identity so that together with parents such schools will continue to build up the community of believers, evangelize culture and serve the common good of society.

 

 

For more information please contact us on info@catholicvoices.mt

 

Press Statement: Catholic Voices Malta submits its Position Paper on the proposed Equality Bill and the Rights of Parents over their Children’s Education

Catholic Voices Malta today submitted its position paper on the Equality Bill being discussed in Parliament to the Hon Dr. Edward Zammit Lewis BA, LLD, MP as Minister for Justice, Equality and Governance, and the Chairman and Members of the Adjunct Committee for the Consideration of Bills.

While welcoming those measures that the Government and society take to ensure equality for all, it needs to be emphasized that equality is not homogeneity, and measures taken need to respect diversity if we strive to be equal.   Equality means that although we may be different in race, colour, creed, sexuality, opinions, we are equal.

As Catholics, we believe that “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin.” We all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.   Therefore, “Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

The proposed Bill raises several concerns when dealing with Catholic Education.  Catholic Schools cannot be limited to transmitting Catholic values and ethos only during religion lessons.  The Constitution already obliges every school, be it a Public, Private or Church school, to teach the Catholic faith in religion lessons.  The purpose of a Catholic School goes beyond scholastic excellence and the mere catechisms in a religion lesson. It must be an agent of that inner change that should be typical of the life of all Christians, so that they are empowered to live their Christian faith in society to improve conditions for the poor, the needy and those unjustly treated.

Parents have a fundamental right to make a choice for the education which is closest to their convictions and to the values they hold dear in raising their children, and the freedom to found educational establishments with due respect for democratic principles.

The Bill is also of concern in the way it seeks to restrict the public display of religious symbols, the role of teachers in Catholic Schools, the right to manifest one’s faith publicly, aspects of advertising and the issue of conscientious objection.

Also, the Bill’s vague definitions of ‘harassment’ and ‘victim’ create a situation for expansive subjective interpretations that will become a tool in the hands of those who want to hassle people who do not agree with their thinking.   This defeats the scope of the Bill which is that of seeking to attain and preserve equality.  While a balance needs to be sought between freedom of speech and respect for others, silencing people with legal uncertainty goes against the basic principles of freedom of speech.

Catholic Voices Malta Position Paper on the Equality Bill and Parents’ and Children’s rights to a Catholic education, and other concerns

 

Pope Francis says pandemic can be a ‘place of conversion’ – Catholic Voices Malta and Newsbook.com webinar

Newsbook.com.mt has teamed up with Catholic Voices Malta to further reflect on the Pope’s message of conversion, the dangers of populism and indifference, the need to be mindful of consumption and to have economies which serve humanity not use it. Sylvana Debono leads a discussion with Austen Ivereigh, Catholic Voices Malta Coordinator and former Minister for Finance and the Economy Tonio Fenech and Episcopal delegate and Moral Theologian Nadia Delicata.

We are Christians first – Press Statement issued by 35 Maltese and Gozitan Catholic Movements, Groups, and Organisations

The mere notion that as a Nation we have even considered, let alone have left distressed migrants adrift without aid and risking to drown at sea, shakes us. These migrants have now been found dead, are missing or have been returned to the unacceptable detention conditions in Libya.

These are not the values that guided our nation and made us who we are. As Christians we need to be reminded that Jesus is on those boats.

While we commend the work of the Government, front line health care professionals and workers and other professionals and workers supporting in combatting this spread of the Covid-19 disease, as well as the efforts of so many voluntary initiatives are being organized to support the front-liners, and those who are marginalized as a result of the pandemic.

And while we also acknowledge the concern of many with the limitation of our nation’s size and the risks associated with an uncontrolled influx of migrants.
We need to remember the story of the Good Samaritan. We cannot allow these concerns to be a justification for leaving our brothers and sisters in hardship and mortal peril, even more so when these fall within the search and rescue responsibilities of our country.

We are therefore shocked at the decision taken by the Government to deny support to migrants in distress in our search and rescue area, merely on the pretext that our ports have been closed for everyone due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emergencies require special solutions to ensure that while we protect public health from the potential of further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, we also fulfil our legal and moral obligation to save lives in distress. If an airplane in difficulties were to request permission for an emergency landing, would this be denied?
How can we call ourselves Christians and then leave people drowning at sea? Saved immigrants should be quarantined for the recommended 14-day period. Then in collaboration with the EU Commission Malta should pursue a burden-sharing arrangement similar to those applied in the recent months. We appeal also to the EU and Member States to be more forthcoming in this humanitarian crisis, that is bound to continue, and not offer to share the burden only after an unaided member state suffering a disproportionate burden resorts to brinkmanship.

These are challenging times. Our leaders need to make daily difficult decisions, decisions they never imagined they would have to deal with. As we pray for our leaders, we also appeal to them to ensure that their decisions in future are truly guided by life-centred values.

Augustinian Youths
Azzjoni Kattolika – Ghawdex
Azzjoni Kattolika – Malta
Bahrija Youth Group
CAMYouths Malta
Catholic Charismatic Renewal
Catholic Voices Malta
Centru Katekezi San Lawrenz
Centru taz-Zghazagh ta’ Warda
Couples for Christ
Grupp Żgħażagħ Gudja
Malta Catholic Youth Network
Moviment ta’ Kana
Moviment tal-Fokolari,
Christian Life Community
Fraternità Sekulari Charles de Foucauld
Grupp “Madonna ta’ Pinu”
Jesuit Youth Network
Koinonia Charismatic Prayer Group Birkirkara
KDŻG
Legion of Mary
MYMA (Malta Youth Minister’s Association)
Sixth Form Chaplaincy St Aloysius College
Soċjetà MUSEUM – Nisa
STEPS Project Malta
TAB
The Call
Eucharistic Youth Movement
YouthReach
Youth 4 Jesus (Y4J)
ZAK (Zaghzagh Azzjoni Katolika)

Following the issue of the Press Statement four other organizations contacted us to endorse the Statement:

CFC
Oratorju Marija Immakulata
Seminary Vocations Centre
We2#Young Swatar

 

Papa Franġisku jgħid li l-pandemija tista’ tkun “post ta ‘ konverżjoni” minn Austen Ivereigh

F’intervista esklussiva għal TheTablet — l-ewwel pubblikazzjoni tiegħu fir-Renju Unit — il-Papa Franġisku jgħid li dan ir-Randan u Żmien l-Għid straordinarji jistgħu jkunu mumenti ta’ kreattività u konverżjoni għall-Knisja, għad-dinja, u għall-kreazzjoni kollha.

Lejn l-aħħar ta’ Marzu, issuġġerejt lill-Papa Franġisku li dan jista’ jkun mument tajjeb biex jindirizza lid-dinja Anglofona: il-pandemija li tant kienet affettwat l-Italja u Spanja issa kienet riesqa fuq ir-Renju Unit, l-Istati Uniti u l-Awstralja. Mingħajr ma wiegħed xejn, talabni nibgħat xi mistoqsijiet. Jiena għażilt sitt temi, kull waħda b’serje ta’ mistoqsijiet li seta’ jagħżel li jwieġeb jew le skont kif iħoss xieraq. Ġimgħa wara, irċevejt komunikazzjoni li kien irreġistra xi riflessjonijiet bi tweġiba għall-mistoqsijiet. L-intervista saret bl-Ispanjol; It-traduzzjoni hija tiegħi.

L-ewwel mistoqsija kienet dwar kif kien qed jesperjenza l-pandemija u l-lock-down, kemm fir-residenza Santa Marta kif ukoll l-amministrazzjoni tal-Vatikan (“il-Kurja”) b’mod usa’, kemm prattikament u kemm b’mod spiritwali.

Il-Papa Franġisku: Il-Kurja qed tipprova tkompli bil-ħidma tagħha, u tgħix normalment, billi torganizza ruħha f’xiftijiet tant li mhux kulħadd ikun preżenti fl-istess ħin. Ġiet maħsuba sew. Qed nirrispettaw il-miżuri ordnati mill-awtoritajiet tas-saħħa. Hawnhekk fir-residenza ta’ Santa Marta issa għandna żewġ xiftijiet għall-ikliet, li jgħin ħafna biex itaffi l-impatt. Kulħadd jaħdem fl-uffiċċju tiegħu jew mill-kamra tiegħu, bl-użu tat-teknoloġija. Kull persuna qed taħdem; hawnhekk m’hawnx min qed jitlajja.

Kif qed ngħix dan il-mument spiritwalment? Qed nitlob iktar, għaliex hekk inħoss li għandi nagħmel. Meta naħseb fin-nies inħossni kkonsagrat, jagħmilli tajjeb, ma nibqax moħħi fija nnifsi. Ovvjament għandi l-oqsma tiegħi ta’ egoiżmu. Nhar ta’ Tlieta jiġi l-konfessur tiegħi, u nieħu ħsieb ta’ l-affarijiet hemm.

Qed naħseb dwar ir-responsabbiltajiet tiegħi issa, u dak li se jiġi wara. X’se jkun is-servizz tiegħi bħala l-Isqof ta’ Ruma, bħala kap tal-Knisja, wara dan? Dawk il-konsegwenzi traġiċi u diffiċli qed jibdew jiġu żvelati, u huwa għalhekk li rridu naħsbu dwarhom issa. Id-Dikasteru tal-Vatikan għall-Promozzjoni ta’ l-Iżvilupp Uman Integrali qed jaħdem fuq dan, u qed jiltaqa’ miegħi.

It-tħassib ewlieni tiegħi — għall-inqas dak li ġej mit-talb tiegħi — huwa kif għandi nakkumpanja u nkun eqreb il-poplu ta’ Alla. Għalhekk, l-istreamjar ‘live’ tal-quddiesa tas-7 a.m. (jien niċċelebraha kull filgħodu) li ħafna nies isegwu u japprezzaw, kif ukoll l-indirizzi li tajt, u l-avveniment tal-27 ta’ Marzu fi Pjazza San Pietru. Għalhekk, ukoll, iż-żieda fl-attivitajiet ta’ l-uffiċċju tal-karità tal-Papa, li jieħu ħsieb il-morda u dawk bil-ġuħ.

Qed ngħix dan iż-żmien bħala waqt ta’ inċertezza kbira. Wasal iż-żmien għall-invenzjoni, għall-kreattività.

Fit-tieni mistoqsija tiegħi, irreferejt għar-rumanz tas-seklu dsatax tant għal qalb il-Papa Franġisku, li huwa semma dan l-aħħar: I Promessi Sposi ta’ Alessandro Manzoni. Ir-rumanz idur mal-pesta ta’ Milan tal-1630. Hemm diversi karattri li huma saċerdoti: il-kurat beżżiegħ Don Abbondio, l-isqof cardinal qaddis Borromeo, u l-patrijiet Kapuċċini li jservu fil-Lazzarett, tip ta’ sptar fejn dawk infettati huma sseparati b’mod riġoruż minn dawk f’saħħithom. Fid-dawl tar-rumanz, il-Papa Franġisku kif kien jara l-missjoni tal-Knisja fil-kuntest ta’ Covid-19?

Il-Papa Franġisku: Il-Kardinal Federigo [Borromeo] verament huwa eroj tal-pesta ta’ Milan. Madankollu, f’wieħed mill-kapitoli, huwa jmur biex jagħti merħba lil villaġġ iżda bil-tieqa tal-karozzella tiegħu magħluqa biex jipproteġi lilu nnifsu. Dan ma niżilx tajjeb man-nies. Il-poplu ta’ Alla għandu bżonn ragħaj miegħu biex ikun viċin tiegħu, li ma jipproteġix lilu nnifsu żżejjed. Il-poplu ta’ Alla jeħtieġ li r-rgħajja tagħhom li jkunu lesti jissagrifikaw lilhom infushom, bħall-Kapuċċini, li baqgħu qrib.

Il-kreattività tan-Nisrani teħtieġ li tintwera fil-ftuħ ta’ orizzonti ġodda, il-ftuħ ta’ twieqi, il-ftuħ ta’ traxxendenza lejn Alla u lejn in-nies, u l-ħolqien ta’ modi ġodda ta’ kif wieħed ikun id-dar. Mhuwiex faċli li tkun imsakkar f’darek. Dak li jiġi f’moħħi huwa vers mill-Enejde f’nofs it-telfa: il-parir mhuwiex li taqta’ qalbek, iżda biex issalva lilek innifsek għal żminijiet aħjar, għax f’dawk iż-żminijiet meta niftakru minn xiex għaddejna, dak se jgħinna. Ħudu ħsieb tagħkom infuskom għal futur li se jiġi. U f’dak il-ġejjieni, li tiftakar f’dak li ġara jagħmillek tajjeb.
Ħu ħsieb tal-preżent, f’ġieħ il-ġejjieni. Dejjem b’mod kreattiv, bi kreattività sempliċi, li kapaċi tivvinta xi ħaġa ġdida kuljum. F’darna mhux diffiċli tiskopri dan il-kreattività, iżda taħrabx, tintilifx f’eskepjiżmu, li f’dan iż-żmien m’għandekx bżonnu.

It-tielet mistoqsija tiegħi kienet dwar il-politiki tal-gvernijiet b’reazzjoni għall-kriżi. Filwaqt li l-kwarantina tal-popolazzjoni hija sinjal li xi gvernijiet huma lesti jissagrifikaw il-benesseri ekonomiku b’risq persuni vulnerabbli, issuġġerejtlu li dan kien ukoll qed jesponi livelli ta’ esklużjoni li qabel kienu kkonsidrati bħala normali u aċċettabbli.

Il-Papa Franġisku: Huwa minnu li għadd ta’ gvernijiet ħadu miżuri eżemplari biex jiddefendu l-popolazzjoni abbażi ta’ prijoritajiet ċari. Iżda qed nirrealizzaw li l-ħsieb tagħna, irridu jew ma rridux, idur madwar l-ekonomija. Fid-dinja tal-finanzi kienet ħaġa normali li tissagrifika [l-poplu], biex tipprattika politika tal-kultura tal-iskart, mill-bidu sal-aħħar tal-ħajja. Qed naħseb, pereżempju, dwar is-selezzjoni ta’ qabel it-twelid. Dawn il-ġranet tassew mhux tas-soltu biex niltaqgħu ma’ nies bis-sindromu ta’ Down fit-triq. Meta dawn jiġu skoperti waqt it-tqala, jintremew. Din hija kultura tal-ewtanasja, legali jew moħbija, li fiha l-anzjani jingħataw medikazzjoni iżda biss sa ċertu punt.

Tiġini f’moħħi l-enċiklika tal-Papa Pawlu VI Humanae Vitae. Il-kontroversja kbira f’dak iż-żmien kienet fuq il-pillola [kontraċettiva], iżda li ma rrealizzawx in-nies kienet il-forza profetika tal-enċiklika, li pprevediet in-neo-Maltusjaniżmu li kien għadu kemm beda madwar id-dinja. Pawlu VI qajjem l-allarm fuq dik il-mewġa ta’ Neo-Maltusjaniżmu. Narawh fil-mod kif jintgħażlu n-nies skont l-utilità jew il-produttività tagħhom: il-kultura tal-iskart.

Bħalissa, min hu bla dar għadu bla dar. Deher ritratt ftit ilu ta’ parkeġġ f’Las Vegas fejn daħħlu l-kwarantina. U l-lukandi kienu vojta. Iżda n-nies bla dar ma jistgħux imorru f’lukanda. Dik hija l-kultura tal-iskart fil-prattika.

Kont kurjuż biex inkun naf jekk il-Papa rax il-kriżi u d-devastazzjoni ekonomika li se tħalli warajh bħala opportunità għal konverżjoni ekoloġika, għal bidla fil-prijoritajiet u stili ta’ ħajja. Staqsejtu b’mod konkret jekk kienx possibbli li fil-ġejjieni naraw ekonomija li — biex nuża l-kliem tiegħu — kienet aktar “umana” u inqas “likwida”.

Il-Papa Franġisku: Hemm espressjoni bl-Ispanjol: “Alla dejjem jaħfer, aħna naħfru xi drabi, iżda n-natura ma taħfer qatt.” Ma nweġbux għall-katastrofi parzjali. Min issa jitkellem dwar in-nirien fl-Awstralja, jew jiftakar li 18-il xahar ilu bastiment seta’ jaqsam il-Pol tat-Tramuntana għax li l-glaċieri kienu nħallu kollha? Min jitkellem issa dwar l-għargħar? Ma nafx jekk dawn humiex il-vendetta tan-natura, iżda ċertament dawn huma t-tweġibiet tan-natura.
Għandna memorja selettiva. Nixtieq nieqaf ftit fuq dan il-punt. Stagħġibt fis-sebgħin anniversarju tal-kommemorazzjoni tal-iżbarki fin-Normandija, li attendew għaliha persuni fl-ogħla livelli tal-kultura u l-politika. Kienet ċelebrazzjoni kbira. Huwa minnu li dan l-anniversarju kien il-bidu ta’ tmiem id-dittatorjat, iżda ħadd ma deher li qed jfakkar fl-10,000 ġuvni li baqgħu fuq din il-bajja.

Meta mort Redipuglia għal għeluq il-mitt sena tal-Ewwel Gwerra Dinjija rajt monument sabiħ u ismijiet imnaqqxa fuq ġebla, iżda daqshekk. Bkejt, jien u niftakar fil-frażi ta’ Benedittu XV “massakru bla sens”, u l-istess ġrali f’Anzio f’Jum l-Erwieħ kollha, jien u naħseb f’dawk is-suldati kollha Nord Amerikani midfuna hemmhekk, li kull wieħed minnhom kellu familja, u kif kull wieħed minnhom seta’ kien jien.

F’dan iż-żmien meta fl-Ewropa qed nibdew nisimgħu diskorsi populisti u qed naraw deċiżjonijiet politiċi ta’ dan it-tip selettiv, trid jew ma tridx tiftakar fid-diskorsi ta’ Hitler tal-1933, li ma kinux tant differenti minn uħud mid-diskorsi ta’ xi politiċi Ewropej ta’ issa.

Jiġini f’rasi vers ieħor ta’ Virġilju: “forsi għad jasal il-jum meta jkun tajjeb li wieħed jiftakar f’dawn l-affarijiet ukoll”. Irridu nirkupraw il-memorja tagħna għaliex se tkun il-memorja li se tgħinna. Din m’hijiex l-ewwel pandemija tal-umanità; L-oħrajn saru sempliċement aneddoti. Jeħtieġ li niftakru fl-għeruq tagħna, it-tradizzjoni tagħna miżgħuda b’memorji. Fl-Eżerċizzji ta’ Sant Injazju, l-Ewwel Ġimgħa, kif ukoll il-“Kontemplazzjoni kif tikseb l-Imħabba” fir-Raba’ Ġimgħa, huma kompletament meħuda bl-att tal-memorja. Din hija konverżjoni li sseħħ permezz tal-att al-memorja.

Din il-kriżi qed taffettwa lilna lkoll, sinjuri u foqra, u qed tixħet dawl fuq l-ipokrisija. Ninsab imħasseb bl-ipokrisija ta’ ċerti personalitajiet politiċi li jitkellmu dwar il-bżonn li naffaċċjaw din il-kriżi, tal-problema tal-ġuħ fid-dinja, iżda li sadanittant jimmanifatturaw l-armi. Dan huwa żmien ta’ konverżjoni minn din it-tip ta’ ipokrisija funzjonali. Dan huwa żmien ta’ integrità. Jew aħna koerenti fit-twemmin tagħna jew nitilfu kollox.

Qed issaqsini dwar il-konverżjoni. Kull kriżi fiha kemm il-periklu kif ukoll l-opportunità: l-opportunità li noħorġu mill-periklu. Illum nemmen li għandna nnaqqsu r-rata ta’ produzzjoni u konsum tagħna (Laudato Si’, 191) u biex nitgħallmu nifhmu u nikkontemplaw id-dinja naturali. Jeħtieġ li jkollna rabta mill-ġdid mal-ambjent reali tagħna. Din hija l-opportunità għal konverżjoni.
Iva, jien nara sinjali bikrija ta’ ekonomija li hija inqas likwida, aktar umana. Iżda ejja ma nitilfux il-memorja tagħna ladarba dan kollu jkun fl-imgħoddi, ejja ma npoġġuhiex fil-ġenb u mmorru lura fejn konna. Dan huwa ż-żmien biex jittieħed il-pass deċiżiv, biex nimxu mill-użu u l-użu ħażin tan-natura, għall-kontemplazzjoni tagħha. Tlifna d-dimensjoni kontemplattiva; Irridu nerġgħu nakkwistawha f’dan iż-żmien.

Waqt li kien qed nitkellem dwar il-kontemplazzjoni, nixtieq nisħaq fuq punt wieħed. Dan huwa l-mument fejn tassew nagħrfu lill-foqra. Ġesù jgħid li se jkollna l-foqra magħna dejjem, u dan huwa minnu. Dawn huma realtà li ma nistgħux ninnegaw. Iżda l-foqra huma moħbija għaliex il-faqar huwa mistħi. Dan l-aħħar f’Ruma, f’nofs il-kwarantina, wieħed pulizija qal lil raġel: “Ma tistax toqgħod fit-triq, trid tmur id-dar.” It-tweġiba kienet: “M’għandix dar. jien ngħix fit-triq.” Li niskopru numru tant kbir ta’ nies li jgħixu fil-marġini tas-soċjetà… U ma narawhomx, għaliex il-faqar huwa mistħi. Dawn qegħdin hemm iżda ma nagħrfuhomx: Saru parti mill-pajsaġġ; saru oġġetti.

Santa Teresa of Kalkutta għarfithom, u kellha l-kuraġġ timbarka fuq vjaġġ ta’ konverżjoni. Li “naraw” il-fqar ifisser li nirrestawraw l-umanità tagħhom. Mhumiex oġġetti, mhumiex żibel; huma bnedmin. Ma nistgħux nikkuntentaw irwieħna b’politika soċjali bħalma għandna għall-annimali li jiġu salvati. Ħafna drabi nittrattaw il-fqar bħal dawn l-annimali. Ma nistgħux nikkuntentaw irwieħna b’politika soċjali parzjali.

Se nazzarda noffri parir. Wasal iż-żmien li mmorru taħt l-art. Qed naħseb dwar in-novella qasira ta’ Dostoyvsky, ‘Noti minn Taħt l-Art’. L-impjegati ta’ dak l-isptar tal-ħabs tant kienu xrafu li kienu jittrattaw lill-imsejknin priġunieri bħala oġġetti. U meta jara l-mod kif ittrattaw wieħed li kien għadu kemm miet, dak li kien fuq is-sodda ħdejh jgħidilhom: “Biżżejjed! Hu wkoll kellu omm!” Għandna ngħidu lilna nfusna dan ta’ spiss: dak l-imsejken kellu omm li rabbietu b’għożża. Aktar tard f’ħajjithom, ma nafux x’ġara. Iżda ta’ min niftakru fl-imħabba li darba rċieva permezz tat-tama ta’ ommu.

Aħna nneżżgħu lill-foqra minn kull poter. Ma nagħtuhomx id-dritt li joħolmu b’ommijiethom. Ma jkunux jafu x’inhi l-imħabba; ħafna jgħixu fuq id-drogi. U meta narawhom nistgħu nerġgħu niskopru l-miżerikordja, il-pietas, li tipponta lejn Alla u lejn il-ġar tagħna.

Inżel taħt l-art, u għaddi minn dinja iper-virtwali u bla ġisem, għall-ġisem magħdur bit-tbatija tal-fqir. Din hija l-konverżjoni li rridu ngħaddu minnha. U jekk ma nibdewx minn hawn, mhux se jkun hemm konverżjoni.

Qed naħseb f’dan il-ħin fil-qaddisin li jgħixu maġenbna. Huma eroj: it-tobba, il-voluntiera, is-sorijiet, il-qassisin, il-ħaddiema tal-ħwienet — kollha jaqdu dmirijiethom sabiex is-soċjetà tkun tista’ tkompli taħdem. Kemm mietu tobba u infermiera! Kemm mietu sorijiet! Kollha waqt li qed jaqdu…, niftakar xi ħaġa li qal il-ħajjât, fil-fehma tiegħi wieħed mill-karattri bl-ikbar integrità fil-Promessi Sposi. Dan qal: “Il-Mulej ma jħallix l-mirakli nofs leħja.” Jekk nintebħu bil-miraklu tal-qaddisin li jgħixu maġenbna, jekk nistgħu nimxu fuq il-passi tagħhom, il-miraklu se jintemm sew, għall-ġid ta’ kulħadd. Alla ma tħallix l-affarijiet f’nofs triq. Dak aħna nagħmluh.

Dak li qed ngħixu llum huwa l-ispazju ta’ Metanoja (konverżjoni), u għandna l-opportunità li nibdew. Mela ejja ma nħalluhiex tiżżerżaq minn idejna, u ejja nimxu ‘l quddiem.

Il-ħames mistoqsija tiegħi kienet tiffoka fuq l-effetti tal-kriżi fuq il-Knisja, u l-ħtieġa li naħsbu mill-ġdid dwar il-ħidma tagħna. Jara li joħroġ minn dan Knisja li hija aktar missjunarja, aktar kreattiva, anqas marbuta mal-istituzzjonijiet? Qed naraw tip ġdid ta’ “knisja domestika”?

Il-Papa Franġisku: Inqas marbuta mal-istituzzjonijiet? Iktar ngħid li inqas marbuta ma’ ċerti modi ta’ ħsieb. Għax il-Knisja hija istituzzjoni. It-tentazzjoni hija li ssir ħolma ta’ knisja deistituzzjonalizzata, knisja gnostika mingħajr istituzzjonijiet, jew waħda li hija soġġetta għal istituzzjonijiet fissi, li tkun Knisja Pelaġjana. Huwa l-Ispirtu s-Santu li jagħmel il-Knisja, li la hu gnostiku u l-anqas Pelaġjan. Huwa l-iSpirtu s-Santu li jistituzzjonalizza, b’mod alternattiv u kumplimentari, il-Knisja, minħabba li l-Ispirtu s-Santu jipprovoka d-diżordni permezz tal-kariżmi, iżda mbagħad minn din id-diżordni joħloq l-armonija.
Knisja li hija ħielsa m’hijiex knisja anarkika, għaliex il-libertà hija rigal ta’ Alla. Knisja istituzzjonali tfisser Knisja li hija istituzzjonalizzata mill-iSpirtu s-Santu.
Tensjoni bejn id-diżordni u l-armonija: Din hija l-Knisja li trid toħroġ mill-kriżi. Irridu nitgħallmu ngħixu fi Knisja li teżisti fit-tensjoni bejn l-armonija u d-diżordni pprovokat mill-Ispirtu s-Santu. Jekk tistaqsini liema ktieb tat-teoloġija jista’ jgħinek tifhem aħjar dan, dan ikun l-Atti tal-Appostli. Hemmhekk se tara kif l-Ispirtu s-Santu jiddeistituzzjonalizza dak li m’għadux ta’ siwi, u jistituzzjonalizza l-ġejjieni tal-Knisja. Din hija l-Knisja li għandha bżonn toħroġ mill-kriżi.

Xi ġimgħa ilu ċempilli isqof Taljan, kemxejn imħawwad. Kien qed idur mal-isptarijiet biex jagħti l-assoluzjoni lil dawk fis-swali mill-intrata tal-isptar. Iżda kien tkellem ma’ xi avukati kanoniċì li kienu qalulu li ma setax, għax l-assoluzzjoni setgħet tingħata biss f’kuntatt dirett. “X’taħseb, Papa?” kien talabni. Għedtlu “Isqof, wettaq id-dmir saċerdotali.” u l-Isqof qalli: ”Grazzi, fhimtek”. Iktar tard, skoprejt li kien qiegħed jagħti l-assoluzzjoni kullimkien.
Din hija l-libertà tal-Ispirtu f’nofs kriżi, u mhux il-Knisja magħluqa fl-istituzzjonijiet. Dan ma jfissirx li l-liġi kanonika mhijiex importanti: hi importanti, u tgħin, u ejja nagħmlu użu tajjeb minnha, għax tagħmel il-ġid. Iżda l-aħħar klawżola tgħid li l-liġi kanonika kollha qiegħda hemm biex issalva l-erwieħ. Dak hu li jiftaħ il-bieb meta nkunu f’diffikultà biex inwasslu l-konsolazzjoni ta’ Alla.
Qed tistaqsini dwar “Knisja domestika”. Irridu nirrispondu għall-għeluq fi djarna bil-kreattività kollha tagħna. Nistgħu jew naqgħu f’depressjoni jew naljenaw irwieħna — permezz tal-mezzi tax-xandir li jistgħu jeħdulna lil hinn mir-realtà tagħna — jew nistgħu insiru l-kreattivi. Fid-dar għandna bżonn ta’ kreattività appostolika, kreattività mingħajr tant affarijiet inutli, iżda b’xenqa li nesprimu l-fiduċja tagħna fis-sens ta’ komunità, bħala poplu ta’ Alla. Għalhekk: Li noqogħdu msakkrin ġewwa, imma b’xewqa qawwija, bil-memorja li tixxennaq u tiġġenera t-tama — dan huwa li se jgħinna naħarbu mill-iżolament li ninsabu fih issa.

Fl-aħħar nett, saqsejt lill-Papa Franġisku kif qegħdin nissejħu biex ngħixu dan il-Randan u żmien l-Għid straordinarji. Staqsejt jekk kellux messaġġ partikolari għall-anzjani li kienu qed jiżolaw lilhom infushom, għal żgħażagħ imsakkrin ġewwa, u għal dawk li qed jiffaċċjaw il-faqar bħala riżultat tal-kriżi.

Il-Papa Franġisku: Inti titkellem dwar l-anzjani iżolati: is-solitudni u d-distanza. Kemm hemm anzjani li t-tfal tagħhom ma jmorrux iżuruhom fi żminijiet normali! Fi Buenos Aires, niftakar meta kont inżur id-djar tal-anzjani u kont nistaqsihom: u kif inhi l-familja tiegħek? Tajjeb, tajjeb! Jiġu? Iva, dejjem! Imbagħad l-infermiera kienet toħodni fil-ġenb u tgħidli li t-tfal kienu ilhom ma jarawhom sitt xhur. Solitudni u abbandun … distanza.

Madankollu, l-anzjani jibqgħu l-għeruq tagħna. U jridu jitkellmu maż-żgħażagħ. Din it-tensjoni bejn iż-żgħażagħ u l-anzjani għandha dejjem tissolva fl-inkontru ta’ bejniethom. Għax iż-żgħażagħ huwa nwar u weraq torja, imma mingħajr għeruq ma jistgħux jagħtu l-frott. L-anzjani huma l-għeruq. Kieku llum ngħidilhom: naf li tħossu li l-mewt hija qrib, u qed tibżgħu, iżda dawru ħarsitkom, ftakru f’uliedkom, u tiqfux toħolmu. Dan huwa dak li qed jitlobkom Alla: li toħolmu (Joel 3: 1).

Xi ngħid kieku liż-żgħażagħ? Għandu jkollkom il-kuraġġ li tħarsu ‘l quddiem, u li tkunu profetiċi. J’Alla l-ħolma tal-anzjani jaqbel mal-profeziji tagħkom — Joel 3:1 ukoll.

Dawk li ftaqqru mill-kriżi huma l-imċaħħda ta’ dan iż-żmien, li huma miżjuda mal-għadd ta’ persuni mċaħħda ta’ kull żmien, irġiel u nisa li l-istat tagħhom huwa mċaħħdin”. Tilfu kollox, jew ser jitilfu kollox. Xi tfisser din it-telfa għalija, fid-dawl tal-Vanġelu? Tfisser li tidħol fid-dinja ta’ min hu fil-bżonn, li tifhem li min kellu, issa m’għandu xejn. Dak li nitlob min-nies huwa li jindukraw lix-xjuħ u ż-żgħażagħ, li jindukraw l-istorja, li jindukraw lil min m’għandu xejn.
Niftakar f’vers ieħor ta’ Virġilju, fl-aħħar tat-Tieni Ktieb tal-Enejde, meta Enea, wara t-telfa ta’Troy, tilef kollox. Quddiemu kellu żewġ mogħdijiet: li jibqa’ hemm jitbekka u jtemm ħajtu, jew li segwi dak li kellu f’qalbu, li jmur sal-muntanja u jħalli l-gwerra warajh. Vers mill-isbaħ. “Ċedejt lid-destin u, b’missieri fuq spallejja, tlaqt lejn il-muntanja”.

Dan huwa dak li għandna nagħmlu issa, illum: li nieħdu magħna l-għeruq tat-tradizzjonijiet tagħna, u nitilqu lejn il-muntanja.

 

Austen Ivereigh is a fellow in contemporary church history at Campion Hall, at the University of Oxford. His latest book is Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis’s Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church, published by Henry Holt. Austin Ivereigh is also a Co-Founder of Catholic Voices.

Pope Francis says pandemic can be a ‘place of conversion’ by Austen Ivereigh

Full interview published by The Tablet on the 8th April 2020

In an exclusive interview recorded for The Tablet – his first for a UK publication – Pope Francis says that this extraordinary Lent and Eastertide could be a moment of creativity and conversion for the Church, for the world, and for the whole of creation.

Towards the end of March I suggested to Pope Francis that this might be a good moment to address the English-speaking world: the pandemic that had so affected Italy and Spain was now reaching the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. Without promising anything, he asked me to send some questions. I picked six themes, each one with a series of questions he could answer or not as he saw fit. A week later, I received a communication that he had recorded some reflections in response to the questions. The interview was conducted in Spanish; the translation is my own.

The first question was about how he was experiencing the pandemic and lockdown, both in the Santa Marta residence and the Vatican administration (“the curia”) more widely, both practically and spiritually.

Pope Francis: The Curia is trying to carry on its work, and to live normally, organising in shifts so that not everyone is present at the same time. It’s been well thought out. We are sticking to the measures ordered by the health authorities. Here in the Santa Marta residence we now have two shifts for meals, which helps a lot to alleviate the impact. Everyone works in his office or from his room, using technology. Everyone is working; there are no idlers here.

How am I living this spiritually? I’m praying more, because I feel I should. And I think of people. That’s what concerns me: people. Thinking of people anoints me, it does me good, it takes me out of my self-preoccupation. Of course I have my areas of selfishness. On Tuesdays, my confessor comes, and I take care of things there.

I’m thinking of my responsibilities now, and what will come afterwards. What will be my service as Bishop of Rome, as head of the Church, in the aftermath? That aftermath has already begun to be revealed as tragic and painful, which is why we must be thinking about it now. The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development has been working on this, and meeting with me.

My major concern – at least what comes through my prayer – is how to accompany and be closer to the people of God. Hence the livestreaming of the 7 a.m. Mass [I celebrate each morning] which many people follow and appreciate, as well as the addresses I’ve given, and the 27 March event in St Peter’s Square. Hence, too, the step-up in activities of the office of papal charities, attending to the sick and hungry.

I’m living this as a time of great uncertainty. It’s a time for inventing, for creativity.

In my second question, I referred to a nineteenth-century novel very dear to Pope Francis, which he has mentioned recently: Alessandro Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed). The novel’s drama centres on the Milan plague of 1630. There are various priestly characters: the cowardly curé Don Abbondio, the holy cardinal archbishop Borromeo, and the Capuchin friars who serve the lazzaretto, a kind of field hospital where the infected are rigorously separated from the healthy. In the light of the novel, how did Pope Francis see the mission of the Church in the context of Covid-19?

Pope Francis: Cardinal Federigo [Borromeo] really is a hero of the Milan plague. Yet in one of the chapters he goes to greet a village but with the window of his carriage closed to protect himself. This did not go down well with the people. The people of God need their pastor to be close to them, not to over-protect himself. The people of God need their pastors to be self-sacrificing, like the Capuchins, who stayed close.

The creativity of the Christian needs to show forth in opening up new horizons, opening windows, opening transcendence towards God and towards people, and in creating new ways of being at home. It’s not easy to be confined to your house. What comes to my mind is a verse from the Aeneid in the midst of defeat: the counsel is not to give up, but save yourself for better times, for in those times remembering what has happened will help us. Take care of yourselves for a future that will come. And remembering in that future what has happened will do you good.

Take care of the now, for the sake of tomorrow. Always creatively, with a simple creativity, capable of inventing something new each day. Inside the home that’s not hard to discover, but don’t run away, don’t take refuge in escapism, which in this time is of no use to you.

My third question was about government policies in response to the crisis. While the quarantining of the population is a sign that some governments are willing to sacrifice economic wellbeing for the sake of vulnerable people, I suggested it was also exposing levels of exclusion that have been considered normal and acceptable before now.

Pope Francis: It’s true, a number of governments have taken exemplary measures to defend the population on the basis of clear priorities. But we’re realising that all our thinking, like it or not, has been shaped around the economy. In the world of finance it has seemed normal to sacrifice [people], to practise a politics of the throwaway culture, from the beginning to the end of life. I’m thinking, for example, of pre-natal selection. It’s very unusual these days to meet Down’s Syndrome people on the street; when the tomograph [scan] detects them, they are binned. It’s a culture of euthanasia, either legal or covert, in which the elderly are given medication but only up to a point.

What comes to mind is Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. The great controversy at the time was over the [contraceptive] pill, but what people didn’t realise was the prophetic force of the encyclical, which foresaw the neo-Malthusianism which was then just getting underway across the world. Paul VI sounded the alarm over that wave of neo-Malthusianism. We see it in the way people are selected according to their utility or productivity: the throwaway culture.

Right now, the homeless continue to be homeless. A photo appeared the other day of a parking lot in Las Vegas where they had been put in quarantine. And the hotels were empty. But the homeless cannot go to a hotel. That is the throwaway culture in practice.

I was curious to know if the Pope saw the crisis and the economic devastation it is wreaking as a chance for an ecological conversion, for reassessing priorities and lifestyles. I asked him concretely whether it was possible that we might see in the future an economy that – to use his words – was more “human” and less “liquid”.

Pope Francis: There is an expression in Spanish: “God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives.” We did not respond to the partial catastrophes. Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted? Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.

We have a selective memory. I want to dwell on this point. I was amazed at the seventieth anniversary commemoration of the Normandy landings, which was attended by people at the highest levels of culture and politics. It was one big celebration. It’s true that it marked the beginning of the end of dictatorship, but no one seemed to recall the 10,000 boys who remained on that beach.

When I went to Redipuglia for the centenary of the First World War I saw a lovely monument and names on a stone, but that was it. I cried, thinking of Benedict XV’s phrase inutile strage (“senseless massacre”), and the same happened to me at Anzio on All Souls’ Day, thinking of all the North American soldiers buried there, each of whom had a family, and how any of them might have been me.

At this time in Europe when we are beginning to hear populist speeches and witness political decisions of this selective kind it’s all too easy to remember Hitler’s speeches in 1933, which were not so different from some of the speeches of a few European politicians now.

What comes to mind is another verse of Virgil’s: [forsan et haec olim] meminisse iubavit[“perhaps one day it will be good to remember these things too”]. We need to recover our memory because memory will come to our aid. This is not humanity’s first plague; the others have become mere anecdotes. We need to remember our roots, our tradition which is packed full of memories. In the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, the First Week, as well as the “Contemplation to Attain Love” in the Fourth Week, are completely taken up with remembering. It’s a conversion through remembrance.

This crisis is affecting us all, rich and poor alike, and putting a spotlight on hypocrisy. I am worried by the hypocrisy of certain political personalities who speak of facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but who in the meantime manufacture weapons. This is a time to be converted from this kind of functional hypocrisy. It’s a time for integrity. Either we are coherent with our beliefs or we lose everything.

You ask me about conversion. Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity: the opportunity to move out from the danger. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption (Laudato Si’, 191) and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion.
Yes, I see early signs of an economy that is less liquid, more human. But let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it. We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back at this time.

And speaking of contemplation, I’d like to dwell on one point. This is the moment to see the poor. Jesus says we will have the poor with us always, and it’s true. They are a reality we cannot deny. But the poor are hidden, because poverty is bashful. In Rome recently, in the midst of the quarantine, a policeman said to a man: “You can’t be on the street, go home.” The response was: “I have no home. I live in the street.” To discover such a large number of people who are on the margins … And we don’t see them, because poverty is bashful. They are there but we don’t see them: they have become part of the landscape; they are things.

St Teresa of Calcutta saw them, and had the courage to embark on a journey of conversion. To “see” the poor means to restore their humanity. They are not things, not garbage; they are people. We can’t settle for a welfare policy such as we have for rescued animals. We often treat the poor like rescued animals. We can’t settle for a partial welfare policy.

I’m going to dare to offer some advice. This is the time to go to the underground. I’m thinking of Dostoyevsky’s short novel, Notes from the Underground. The employees of that prison hospital had become so inured they treated their poor prisoners like things. And seeing the way they treated one who had just died, the one on the bed alongside tells them: “Enough! He too had a mother!” We need to tell ourselves this often: that poor person had a mother who raised him lovingly. Later in life we don’t know what happened. But it helps to think of that love he once received through his mother’s hope.

We disempower the poor. We don’t give them the right to dream of their mothers. They don’t know what affection is; many live on drugs. And to see them can help us to discover the piety, the pietas, which points towards God and towards our neighbour.

Go down into the underground, and pass from the hyper-virtual, fleshless world to the suffering flesh of the poor. This is the conversion we have to undergo. And if we don’t start there, there will be no conversion.

I’m thinking at this time of the saints who live next door. They are heroes: doctors, volunteers, religious sisters, priests, shop workers – all performing their duty so that society can continue functioning. How many doctors and nurses have died! How many religious sisters have died! All serving … What comes to my mind is something said by the tailor, in my view one of the characters with greatest integrity in The Betrothed. He says: “The Lord does not leave his miracles half-finished.” If we become aware of this miracle of the next-door saints, if we can follow their tracks, the miracle will end well, for the good of all. God doesn’t leave things halfway. We are the ones who do that.

What we are living now is a place of metanoia (conversion), and we have the chance to begin. So let’s not let it slip from us, and let’s move ahead.

My fifth question centred on the effects on the Church of the crisis, and the need to rethink our ways of operating. Does he see emerging from this a Church that is more missionary, more creative, less attached to institutions? Are we seeing a new kind of “home Church”?

Pope Francis: Less attached to institutions? I’d say less attached to certain ways of thinking. Because the Church is institution. The temptation is to dream of a de-institutionalised Church, a gnostic Church without institutions, or one that is subject to fixed institutions, which would be a Pelagian Church. The one who makes the Church is the Holy Spirit, who is neither gnostic nor Pelagian. It is the Holy Spirit who institutionalises the Church, in an alternative, complementary way, because the Holy Spirit provokes disorder through the charisms, but then out of that disorder creates harmony.

A Church that is free is not an anarchic Church, because freedom is God’s gift. An institutional Church means a Church institutionalised by the Holy Spirit.

A tension between disorder and harmony: this is the Church that must come out of the crisis. We have to learn to live in a Church that exists in the tension between harmony and disorder provoked by the Holy Spirit. If you ask me which book of theology can best help you understand this, it would be the Acts of the Apostles. There you will see how the Holy Spirit de-institutionalises what is no longer of use, and institutionalises the future of the Church. That is the Church that needs to come out of the crisis.

About a week ago an Italian bishop, somewhat flustered, called me. He had been going round the hospitals wanting to give absolution to those inside the wards from the hallway of the hospital. But he had spoken to canon lawyers who had told him he couldn’t, that absolution could only be given in direct contact. “What do you think, Father?” he had asked me. I told him: “Bishop, fulfil your priestly duty.” And the bishop said Grazie, ho capito (“Thank you, I understand”). I found out later that he was giving absolution all around the place.

This is the freedom of the Spirit in the midst of a crisis, not a Church closed off in institutions. That doesn’t mean that canon law is not important: it is, it helps, and please let’s make good use of it, it is for our good. But the final canon says that the whole of canon law is for the salvation of souls, and that’s what opens the door for us to go out in times of difficulty to bring the consolation of God.

You ask me about a “home Church”. We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity. We can either get depressed and alienated – through media that can take us out of our reality – or we can get creative. At home we need an apostolic creativity, a creativity shorn of so many useless things, but with a yearning to express our faith in community, as the people of God. So: to be in lockdown, but yearning, with that memory that yearns and begets hope – this is what will help us escape our confinement.

Finally, I asked Pope Francis how we are being called to live this extraordinary Lent and Eastertide. I asked him if he had a particular message for the elderly who were self-isolating, for confined young people, and for those facing poverty as result of the crisis.

Pope Francis: You speak of the isolated elderly: solitude and distance. How many elderly there are whose children do not go and visit them in normal times! I remember in Buenos Aires when I visited old people’s homes, I would ask them: And how’s your family? Fine, fine! Do they come? Yes, always! Then the nurse would take me aside and say the children hadn’t been to see them in six months. Solitude and abandonment … distance.
Yet the elderly continue to be our roots. And they must speak to the young. This tension between young and old must always be resolved in the encounter with each other. Because the young person is bud and foliage, but without roots they cannot bear fruit. The elderly are the roots. I would say to them, today: I know you feel death is close, and you are afraid, but look elsewhere, remember your children, and do not stop dreaming. This is what God asks of you: to dream (Joel 3:1).

What would I say to the young people? Have the courage to look ahead, and to be prophetic. May the dreams of the old correspond to your prophecies – also Joel 3:1.

Those who have been impoverished by the crisis are today’s deprived, who are added to the numbers of deprived of all times, men and women whose status is “deprived”. They have lost everything, or they are going to lose everything. What meaning does deprivation have for me, in the light of the Gospel? It means to enter into the world of the deprived, to understand that he who had, no longer has. What I ask of people is that they take the elderly and the young under their wing, that they take history under the wing, take the deprived under their wing.

What comes now to mind is another verse of Virgil’s, at the end of Book 2 of the Aeneid, when Aeneas, following defeat in Troy, has lost everything. Two paths lie before him: to remain there to weep and end his life, or to follow what was in his heart, to go up to the mountain and leave the war behind. It’s a beautiful verse. Cessi, et sublato montem genitore petivi (“I gave way to fate and, bearing my father on my shoulders, made for the mountain”).

This is what we all have to do now, today: to take with us the roots of our traditions, and make for the mountain.

Austen Ivereigh is a fellow in contemporary church history at Campion Hall, at the University of Oxford.  His latest book is Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis’s Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church, published by Henry Holt.  Austin Ivereigh is also a Co-Founder of Catholic Voices.

Catholic Voices Malta particpates on the RTK Program Newsbook Hour on the 2 November 2019 dealing with the proposed Reform on Prostitution

 

 

Costantino Mifsud for Catholic Voices Malta participates on the RTK Program Newsbook Hour on the 2 November 2019 on the Government’s Reform proposals for Human trafficking and Prostitution reform.

Catholic Voices Malta issues Position Paper on the Human Trafficking & Prostitution Reform Consultation Document

Catholic Voice Malta today submitted its position paper on the Human Trafficking and Prostitution Reform launched by Parliamentary Secretariat for Reforms, Citizenship and Simplification of Administrative Processes within the Office of the Prime Minister.

While welcoming the efforts presented by the Reform to combat human trafficking and the need to place the victim of trafficking or the person subjected to prostitution at the centre of each decision being taken. The reform lacks the acknowledgement that prostitution is intrinsically wrong because it violates the human dignity of the person involved when contemplating the notions of “ethical recruitment” as a path not merely to decriminalise the prostitute but rather to regularise some forms of prostitution into regular working activity.

If a prostitute is a victim, and for this reason we agree to decriminalise, the prostitute remains a victim even after we manage to remove the stigma, we regularise prostitution and create so called ethical standards of recruitment. If prostitutes are victims, they are victims whether they have been trafficked or whether they enter prostitution for other circumstances, even if these are purely economic.

The reform states that it seeks to be guided by human rights principles. It is precisely the human right principle of human dignity that prostitution violates.
In making its decision Catholic Voices Malta urges the Government not be subjected by the economic demands of so-called operators of say Gentlemen’s Clubs who claim that Malta’s internationalisation necessitates the availability of such services. Women can never become “perks” for an industry.

We urge the legislator to rethink the orientation of the reform and advocate that our system should be closer to models that have proved to be successful in addressing human trafficking, reduce and reintegrate prostitutes in dignified employment and have full respect for the fundamental human rights principle of human dignity, like the Swedish Model.

The dignity of a person goes beyond providing a way out of prostitution, we need to create a culture of unacceptance of the objectification of a woman’s body, the provision of education and work opportunities that value the contribution of the person and provide a source of fulfilment in the alternative work a former prostitute does, rather than continue facing degradation and humiliation to survive.

Prostitutes should be decriminalised, but prostitution should remain a criminal activity, with heavier sanctions being placed on persons found guilty of trafficking human persons, operators of clubs and outlets that host trafficked persons, pimps and persons seeking the services of a prostitute. This clearly implies that strip clubs and similar operations should not be licenced and the concept of “ethical recruitment” withdrawn.

 

CV Reaction – Human trafficking reform Consultation document – Final