February - March 2008
Mr Carmelo Gatt passes away
The Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society has sorrowfully attested to the passing away on 24 March 2008 of Mr Carmelo Gatt at the age of 84, its former President between 1988 and 2003. He served as Committee Member since the Society’s foundation in 1954. For many years he was Head Master of the Vittoriosa Boys’ Primary Schooland was a well-known and respected personality among the people of Vittoriosa. He was always intent on promoting educational initiatives and was instrumental in the setting up of the Vittoriosa Library in the early Sixties. He was also greatly interested in Vittoriosa’s cultural heritage and made valid contributions to the Vittoriosa Historical & Cultural Society’s activities. The Funeral Mass at St Lawrence Church was led by the Archpriest and by various celebrants who had once been his students. He is mourned by his wife. Mrs Rita Gatt, who is the Chairperson of the Society’s Ladies’ Circle, his family and acquintances to whom the Society extends its deepest symapties.
Ash Wednesday 2008
The St Lawrence Parish community embarked on the Lenten period with a well-attended pilgrimage in the street of Vittoriosa with the devout statue of Our Lord the Redeemer. Liturgical hymns were chanted and penitential prayers said. The congregation and clergy were led by the Rev. Archpriest, Can. Joe Caruana. The Knights of Malta were also present, under the lead of the Fort St Angelo Governor, Fra John Critien. This was a special event as it marked the return to Vittoriosa of the statue of the Redeemer after having been restored by Tarxien artist, Lorenzo Gauci. The cost of the restoration was generously paid by benefator Guzi Scicluna. The present statue, which replaces a earlier one depccting Our Lord Carrying the Cross, now preserved in the Benedictine Nuns Monastry at Vittoriosa, was made by Carlo Darmanin in 1865. Throughout the year it is kept in the Holy Crucifix Oratory and for the Good Friday procession the statue is dressed with a beautiful red velvet tunic.
Demise of the Grand Master of the Order of St John, Fra Andrew Bertie
On the morrow of Ash Wednesday the death Sir Andrew Bertie in Rome at the age of 78 years, Grand Master of the Order of St John, was announced. He was appointed 78th Grand Master in 1988. He loved Malta and its people and indeed he had actually lived here for a while with his mother. He even owns a residence in Malta. He also had a strong attachment to Vittoriosa, having served as the Order’s headquarters from 1530 till they transferred to Valletta, and having nonetheless remained as the Order’s Fleet base till their departure in 1798. In a solemn ceremony held at Couvre Porte in 2004 the Vittoriosa Local Council bestowed Sir Andrew with Honorary Citizenship of Vittoriosa, which he immensely appreciated. Vittoriosa mourns his demise. In mid-March the Council of State of the Order elected Fra Matthew Festing as 79th Grand Master. He swore his oath before the Cardinal Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi. He joined the Order in 1977 and became Grand Prior of England in 1993 when the priory was re-established after an abscence of 450 years.
Demise of Fr. Maximilian Mizzi, OFM Conv
Fr. Maximilian Mizzi, OFM Conv. died in early March 2008 at the age of 77 at Assisi where he had resided for half a century. He had been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1999 in recognition of his work to promote ecumenism and spread peace. Giosi, as he was known among relatives, was born at Vittoriosa, joined the Franciscan Friars and was ordained in 1955. After serving for a while in Malta, he was recruited as headmaster of the novices in Assisi. It was through his initiative that the Franciscan Minor Conventual Order set up the International Franciscan Centre for Dialogue, of which he was director and which established a close relationship with the Vatican. Fr. Mizzi participated in numerous international encounters, meeting various personalities including George Bush, Bill Clinton, Mikhael Gorbachov, Dalai Lama, Yasser Arafat, Queen Elizabeth and Mother Theresa. Fr. Mizzi’s work was appreciated and acknowledged around the world. In 1999 he was appointed Companion of the Noble Order of Merit of the Republic of Malta.
"Wartime Diary of a Maltese Boy" by Mr. Laurence Mizzi
This is the title of the English version, recently published, of Mr. Laurence Mizzi’s 1973 book Dhahen tal-Gwerra. Laurence Mizzi was born at Vittoriosa where he spent his early childhood days, running about the streets of Il-Pjazzetta. With the outbreak of war the Mizzi family moved to Gudja, away from the dangers caused by air-raid pointed at the dockyard and the Bristish Naval Base. At Gudja the Mizzi took refuge, with many others, in the premises of the local Museum Society. Laurence recounts his experiences and adventures as a young boy in the nearby fields, his school days, his friendships with British soldiers from the Royal Hampshire Regiment who were camped near Gudja. Later the Mizzi’s moved to Paola. Laurence Mizzi’s book, like other authors, gives invaluable insight on the way of life during the war. The English transalation is by Joseph Falzon.
"Anno Domini XXXIII"
For the first time ever, a film produced entirely by Maltese about the passion of Christ was launched in the cinemas. The film, entitled Anno Domini XXXIII, like other biblical films, portrays the traditional protagonist of the narrative of the passion, and effectively brings out Christ’s message of peace and his extreme suffereing for our salvation. The film has many profoundly touching scenes. A good part of the filming was located at Vittoriosa.
Good Friday events at Vittoriosa
As in previous years, the celebrations marking the religious commemorations of the Holy Week and Good Friday were held with great solemnity at Vittoriosa in accordance with the age-old tradition. Various exhibitions of statues representing episodes from the Passion of Our Lord were organised, notably those by the Vittoriosa Local Council at Coronation Ditch, by the Vittoriosa St Lawrence Band Club, by the Domenican Community and by various individuals. Of particular mention is the Last Supper representation by the Catholic Action Male Section which is in its 44th year. A helpful pamphlet which was well received by visitors was this year put together by the Vittorioa Mayor giving a list and guide map of the various exhitions, with a brief note by Mr Lino Bugeja. On the occasion of the inauguration of the Vittoriosa St Lawrence Band Club exhibition, an Symphanic Programme of sacred music was held at St Lawrence Collegiate Church by the University Junior College Orchestra under the direction of Mro. Emanuel Pirotta. Also on the same occasion, the Band Club launched a Double CD Album, one with Funeral Marches and one with Waltzes. To mark the conclusion of the Quarant’Ore Eucharistic Devotion (40 hours of continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) at St Lawrence Church, a Solemn Mass and Procession were held, with the participation of the Collegiate Chapter and the Domenican Prior, Rev J. Bonnici. The ceremony was led by H.E. Bishop C. Micallef of the Theresian Order.
"In the thick of the war" Mr. Lino Bugeja
In a centre-page article in the Sunday Times of Malta, Lino Bugeja recounts with vivid and heart-rending emotion his turbulent war experience within the war-ravaged city of Vittoriosa where he and his family continued to live, despite the depraved conditions. He contends that the true memories of the war can only be recounted by those who, like him, savoured the fear, the starvation, the misery that the war had brought on Vittoriosa which had practically become a ghost city. The savage attack on HMS Illustious in January 1941 and the tragic loss of lives at St Lawrence Church Sacristy was a brutal prelude to what was in store for Vittoriosa. He recounts how his home received a direct hit and his family took refuge in the underground tunnels at the Post of Castille where conditions were inhuman during the terrile winter of 1941/1942. In the following year he resumed attending school when they were still living in the shelters, having to walk all the way from Vittoriosa to Paola Primary School. He affirms that this was his perilous ‘rite of passage’ from childhood to adolescence.
Article on Melchiorre Gafa’ by Mr. George Cilia
The current issue if the Vittoriosa St Lawrence Band Society’s bullettin features an article, written by Society Member Mr George Cilia, on the famous Vittoriosa-born artist Melchiorre Gafa’. The article gives a brief description of the artist’s monumental sculptures in the baroque style.
St Lawrence’s intercession invoked
During a recent televion programme called AraniIssa featuring health and medical promotion on the National Television Station, a lady suffering from eyesight problems was awarded a sponsorship by the programme producers for an eye operation. When interviewed before the operation, which eventually proved successful, she spontaneously stated that she had great faith in God that everything would go well, adding that she had offered special prayer to St. Lawrence to cure her. St. Lawrence is particularly venerated at Vittoriosa as protector of people with ophthalmic problems, notably with the processional statue known as San Lawrenz jaghti d-dawl lill-ghomja (St Lawrence healing the blind).
Vittoriosa 31 March Regatta wins
The Vittoriosa Rowing Team was the winner of the Shield in one of the Categories of the 2008 edition of the Freedom Day Regetta held in the Grand Harbour. The glittering Shield and the Trophies were proudly displayed at the foot of the Victory Monument in Vittoriosa Square, alongside the red-painted winning boat.