Tradition commands that every year, the parish of Floriana celebrates the feast of Saint Publius two weeks after Easter. With this message I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate all the parishioners and devotees of Saint Publius and wish them a wonderful celebration.
We cannot of course forget the dispirited incident of the burning of the triumphal arch, under which traditionally the statue of Saint Publius used to be carried to the joy of the saint’s devotees.
We do not know who perpetrated this violent and destructive act against our heritage. We are saddened with, and show our solidarity to the residents of Floriana, but we mostly show the determination to try and rebuild the heritage that has been destroyed. What has been lost cannot be recuperated; however we have to do our utmost to never forget what it meant to us and the values that it allowed us to express.
What do I mean? The triumphal arch was an extraordinary architectural structure made of wood. It was made out of extraordinary skill. I would like to laud all those wood sculptors, carpenters and engineers that had worked on this unique and extraordinary celebratory regalia and artistic masterpiece. Today, it is nothing more than a pile of ashes. We are also destroying most of our Maltese heritage, and therefore we should stop and ask ourselves: is this the way we want to keep going on?
We wish to see Saint Publius’ triumphal arch rebuilt, but not just structurally. I appeal to all of you to take a page from Saint Publius’ book and imitate his much admired values: the welcoming of foreigners, the respect for our parents, the nurturing of our communal spiritual and physical health, all without blocking anybody out.
These are values that we admire in Saint Publius, a saint that honoured us, and that is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures for his mellowness, his goodness and sense of pity. I wish that whilst we are trying to rebuild the triumphal arch for Saint Publius, we also continue to build on the good values that he taught us.