Bishop Zammit’s Lenten Pastoral Letter

By | Bishop Carmel, News

REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS

Dear Beloved in Christ,

For practically a whole year, the words most used have been pandemic, self-isolation, Covid-19, Coronavirus and unfortunately death due to Covid-19.  All these terms have become familiar to us, and they are all connected to the threat to life that the virus going round all over the world poses.  Due to this pandemic, all of us have lost persons we loved or were close to.

Last year the public celebration of Easter was not possible, and we don’t know as yet how the celebration of the Easter Triduum this year will be celebrated due to the uncertainties that the pandemic raises.

During this Lent, whatever the situation the pandemic confronts us with, certain truths about Lent are good to remember and put into practice.  The elements that make Lent relevant are prayer, conversion, sacrifice and charity which includes almsgiving. The restrictions that we have to follow may even be a help to reflect more about what is really important in our life and give more attention to these realities.  This Lent gives us the opportunity of reflecting about our priorities in life, and whether these priorities are in the order they should be.

When Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit after his baptism in the Jordan into the wilderness, he was in self-isolation.  There he had time, forty days, to prepare himself for his public ministry and to realise what his mission was really about.  He was faced with the challenges or temptations that we all face due to our fallen nature.  He did battle with the devil, and he overcame the temptations regarding self-indulgence, self-glory and seeking power.  He was able to overcome these temptations because he spent his time in the desert praying and fasting.  After forty days in the desert, he went out to start his public ministry and his first proclamation was “The hour has come.  The Kingdom of God is near.   Repent and believe the Good News” (Mk 1, 15).

The Lord commissioned the Church to continue to spread this original message.  The call to repentance and conversion is always relevant and urgent.   The command to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News is the treasure that is entrusted to the Church (cf. Mk 16, 15). What is the good news?  The Good News is Christ himself, his presence in the Church.  “I am with you always, till the end of the age” (Mt. 28, 20).  This presence is very actual in the sacrifice of the Mass, which actualises the salvation and redemption that were achieved by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his overpowering of death by his Resurrection.

Jesus was not always active amongst the crowds who were hungry for his words and his miracles.  He found time to be alone with his Father in intimate prayer.   During Lent, in a special way, we are reminded about the importance of personal prayer, which is at the heart of every Christian’s life.  We are urged to find ways to be alone with the Father.  The Season of Lent has always been a call to spend time with the Father in personal prayer.

Although our faith tells us that God is love, that He is always anxious to receive us back into his arms when we make up our mind to return to him, as we learn in the parable of the prodigal son, it is always possible that we will turn our back to God.  We are unfortunately often influenced by a society which looks on life and on the world as all that we have to enjoy now.  Many seek to  experience heaven here and now, and the new sainthood is achieving celebrity and experiencing as much pleasure as we can in the present.

Christ took upon himself the weight of all our sins, and through his passion and sacrificial death he, so to speak, paid for all our sins.  This is what we mean by redemption.  But sin did not end with our redemption, and it is still very much alive around us, and this reality will continue till the end of time. But Christ never turned his back on the sinner.  He will never turn his back to us, however much we may feel in despair or burdened with guilt.

The call to repentance is also a call to conversion.  It is not sufficient to say I am sorry, but one has to change direction. The danger is that we may consider ourselves as not in need of any conversion because, although we realise we have faults, we don’t consider them as serious enough as to make any effort to overcome such defects or failures.

When Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest, he answered that the first and greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength, and that the second most important commandment was to love one’s neighbour as oneself (cf. Mt 22, 36-40). In its essence, love means willing what is good for the other and then to act on that desire. Real love is to escape from the natural inclination to be egoists, and to embrace the good of the other for the sake of the other.

In previous Lents we suggested that any charitable donations may go to Aid to the Church in Need.  You are obviously free to choose which charity you would like to make your contributions to this Lent as a consequence of your self-denial, but I would like to encourage you to remember to include Aid to the Church in Need also this year.  This Charity is dedicated to help Christians who are suffering persecution and who are also caught up in countries where there are conflicts which make life extremely difficult.

May Mary, the Mother of our Saviour and our mother, walk closely with each of us this Lent, to bring us and those we pray for safe into celebrating in faith the Resurrection.

With my good wishes and prayers,

+Carmel Zammit
Bishop of Gibraltar

Public worship to resume as from Saturday 20th February

By | Bishop Carmel, News

The Chief Minister has announced this afternoon that as from Saturday 20th February, public worship may be resumed, with the same Public Health directives as just before lockdown, mainly concerning social distancing and sanitisation hygiene. His Lordship the Bishop has therefore instructed the parishes to reopen for public worship on that day.

Unfortunately, this means that public liturgies will resume after Ash Wednesday and so, this year we will not be able to administer the ashes in our customary way. Instead, we may substitute the placing of blessed ashes on our heads, with a time for prayer and contemplation of what Lent means and of the significance this Penitential time has for us as Christians. The Stations of the Cross, or reading and meditating on a passage from Sacred Scriptures which is used at Mass on Ash Wednesday, are particularly appropriate.

Ash Wednesday remains a day of fasting and abstinence for those who are bound by ecclesiastical law and who are able to do so without harm to their health, especially during this time when it is important to keep a good diet that will help us battle against Covid and seasonal viruses.

The dispensation from the observance of the Sunday precept and of Holy Days of Obligation remains in force until we can return fully to normal.

Please be careful to observe social distancing in church, particularly in weekends when the maximum number of persons allowed to gather in a church might inadvertently be exceeded. Your cooperation will be sincerely appreciated, especially if you find on arrival that  you should not enter a church because there is no more safe room available.

The previous restrictions regarding funerals, baptisms, weddings and confessions continue to be in force for as long as the Public Authorities’ directives continue to hold.

[12/2/2021]

Breaking News!

By | Bishop Carmel, News, Vatican

From the office of the Bishop of Gibraltar, Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned.

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

Appointment of Apostolic Nuncio in Benin

The Holy Father has appointed as Apostolic Nuncio in Benin Mgr Mark Gerard Miles, at the same time elevating him to the titular see of civitatis ducalis, with the dignity of Archbishop.

 

Archbishop-elect Mark Gerard Miles

The Most Reverend Mark Gerard Miles was born in Gibraltar, U.K., on 13 May 1967.

He was ordained a priest on 14 September 1996 and incardinated into the Diocese of Gibraltar.

He has a doctorate in Canon Law and a licence in Theology.

He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See on 1 July 2003, and subsequently worked in the Pontifical Representations in Ecuador and Hungary, then in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State and most recently in the Holy See Observer Mission to the Organization of American States in Washington D.C.

He is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian and has a working knowledge of French.

Details of the date and ceremony of Episcopal Ordination to follow shortly.

 

Monsignor Miles, on reacting to the news, stated: 

“I am honoured and humbled by the Holy Father’s confidence in appointing me to be his representative to the Republic of Benin.

My gratitude goes out to my beloved family, thinking of my late parents William and Mary Miles, and to all my friends and loved ones who have supported me on life’s journey and have helped me on the path of faith and vocation.

I thank my brother priests of the diocese of Gibraltar and especially bishops past and present who have, in different ways, been fatherly towards me. I extend deep gratitude to everyone in Gibraltar, a community distinguished by tolerance, respect, warmth and unique hospitality.

Finally, I commend this ministry to the intercession of Our Lady of Europe and to the prayers of the Saints close to my heart so that I may give honour to God and fulfil the work he has entrusted to me”.

 

Bishop Carmel Zammit, on reacting to news, stated:

“ I am delighted both for Archbishop-Elect Mgr Mark Miles and for the Church in Gibraltar. I have no doubt that Mgr Mark will be supported by the prayers of all of us in Gibraltar in this important ministry he will be undertaking on behalf of the Holy Father as his diplomatic representative in the Republic of Benin. The Diocese of Gibraltar wishes him many years of faithful and rewarding service in the Church. All the clergy and the community congratulate Mgr Miles on this appointment and also congratulate his family”.

Churches to reopen as restrictions reviewed

By | Bishop Carmel, News

Following the latest review of the restrictions by the Public Health Authorities, the Bishop has instructed that churches may reopen for private prayer as from this coming Monday.

For the moment, public Masses and liturgies remain suspended until the Authorities indicate that it is safe to do resume them.

Bishop Zammit encourages everyone to cooperate with the lockdown guidelines issued by the Public Health Authorities for the good of all, especially the vulnerable.

Churches closed during lockdown

By | Bishop Carmel, News

All our churches are to remain CLOSED (including now also for private prayer)

for the time being, in view of the high number of persons being infected by Covid-19.

 
Bishop Zammit encourages everyone to cooperate with the lockdown guidelines issued by the Public Health Authorities for the good of all, especially the vulnerable.

Covid Restrictions in churches from 22nd December to 11th January

By | Bishop Carmel, News

Following the request from the Public Health Authorities, the Bishop has decreed that all Masses and public liturgies are suspended from Tuesday 22nd December until the 11th January, when the situation will be reviewed.

It is a sad, but necessary step, in the light of the recent exponential increase in Covid cases in Gibraltar.

Many will be disappointed that there will be no Midnight and Christmas Masses this year, but the Bishop is grateful for the cooperation of all.

Let us remain united in prayer this Christmas, as we look forward to better times in 2021.

Our Lady of Europe and St. Bernard, Patrons of Gibraltar, pray for us.

BISHOP’S MESSAGE OF ENCOURAGEMENT IN THIS TIME OF LOCKDOWN

By | Bishop Carmel, News

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As all are aware, we are at present living and experiencing an unprecedented and extraordinary existential situation, something that nobody ever dreamt we would experience. Due to the lockdown, churches have been closed and the liturgical services that used to bring us together to celebrate and nourish our faith has been also somewhat suspended or very limited in the number of those who could take part in them. The elderly and those who are medically more at risk and vulnerable have been isolating themselves, thus somehow depriving themselves of the presence of their closeness to family members. Social distancing also has to be kept in order to avoid being infected by the coronavirus.

I would like to take this opportunity first of all to express a word of encouragement, especially to the elderly and those who are medically more at risk and vulnerable, who, for their own well-being, are obliged to stay at home. We should do our best not to forget them and to keep in touch with them. Fortunately, the means of communication that are at our disposal make it possible and quite easy to keep in touch with out dear ones. I would also like to show my appreciation for their generosity and sense of sacrifice in following the advice of the Health Authorities. It is our duty not to forget them and to keep in touch with them regularly.

The Health Authorities are informing us daily on how the situation is developing, and thank God we are getting encouraging news, although we are warned not to relax in our observance of the directives issued by them. We have to cooperate with the Authorities if we are to promote the health of others and safeguard our own.

I would like also to ask the Catholic faithful, who have been deprived of meeting together in our Churches or religious places of worship, to pray that it will not be long before the time arrives when we will be able to meet together as a community of believers. What makes the Church alive and really present in our lives is the ability to listen to the Word of God, to celebrate the Eucharist, and to receive the Sacraments. Let us also pray that we may soon be able to hold funerals in the traditional manner so dear to us, when we take our beloved departed to Church to give them there a dignified last farewell in the way that we are accustomed to do. It is a situation that saddens me to think that when we are celebrating a funeral, we have to do so with the bare essentials, with a very limited number of people attending and away from a church either at the Cemetery or Crematorium. It is so sad that we are deprived of showing our appreciation to our departed friends and family members.

May I also show my sincere appreciation towards those who, at great personal sacrifice, are helping those who are in need. They are the heroes and heroines of the situation in which we are living, and they deserve all our gratitude and respect.

We all are aware that life after this period of lockdown will not be the same as it was before. Many uncertainties and financial difficulties will have to be faced. We will need to adjust to a new and very different kind of life from the one we are used to. This tempest we are facing is teaching us to give more attention to what is really important and essential in life; and to learn to do without what is peripheral.

As soon as the civil authorities start relaxing the conditions of the lockdown, in accordance with their regulations and respecting social distancing, it is my hope that we will start celebrating again the Eucharist in public, even if in limited numbers and that the churches may open again for private prayer. When the right conditions permit, the Chrism Mass, which was not celebrated in Holy Week as usual, will be also celebrated, to thank God for being our rock and our help in our time of need.

We will shortly be starting the month of May, a month dedicated in a special way to Our Lady. Pope Francis in a letter to all the faithful has urged us to pray the rosary every day during May. The Rosary is a powerful prayer especially in times of necessity and danger. For the last five hundred years the Rosary has always been the special prayer to honour Our Lady and to seek her intercession. Praying the rosary as a family is recommended, but if this is not possible individual recitation of the Rosary is encouraged.

May Our Lady of Europe, who by her intercession is our protection in times of need, continue to look after us and support us. May St. Bernard, Patron of Gibraltar intercede for us too.

With an assurance of my prayers,

+Carmel Zammit
Bishop of Gibraltar

The St. Francis Clinic donates £20,000

By | Bishop Carmel, News

A donation from the St. Francis Clinic of £20,000.00 has been made to the Government of Gibraltar as a contribution towards the efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in our community.

 

The St. Francis Clinic is a Catholic charitable institution created on the 11th September 1972, under the umbrella of the Catholic Church in Gibraltar. The Charity, whose Chairman is always the Bishop of Gibraltar, was set up specifically for the care for the sick and the poor in Gibraltar and has been very active since then.

 

The Charity wholeheartedly agreed to effect this donation in view of the tremendous expense being incurred by the GHA and the Government, as a consequence of the catastrophic, world-wide, pandemic that we are all going through.

  

The Bishop and the Trustees of the St. Francis Clinic wish to take this opportunity in thanking and congratulating our Chief Minister, the Government Ministers, the GHA authorities, all our ‘front-line’ and administrative workers for the fantastic, untiring, work that is being carried out on behalf of everyone in Gibraltar. God bless you all.

BISHOP’S APPEAL FOR DONATIONS

By | Bishop Carmel

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 Our parishes, our 8 priests and those we employ, depend almost totally on your generous donations for their running costs. We have 2 major historic buildings to maintain, 5 parish churches, the Shrine and various chapels and centres.

 Indeed, without your support, we simply could not manage as a Diocese. Without this support we cannot deliver our spiritual and pastoral care. Without you, we cannot look after those in need. Without you we will not be able to look after our priests when they too will fall ill. Without this support, we could not give back to you in the form of the priestly ministry you are accustomed to.

 The Covid-19 situation is affecting everyone in our community, individuals and businesses alike. The Church is no different.

 Since we operate from your charitable contributions, it means that now that there are no religious services, practically all our normal income through Sunday collections and devotional offerings have suddenly ceased.

 Many have been asking how they can continue to support the Church in this time of pandemic crisis. Thank you for showing this sensitivity and interest to help us.

 Please support us by donating online or by direct bank transfer [which remains the preferred option to avoid commissions and exchange rate charges on online payments] to the Diocese’s general needs. The donations received will then enable us to support individual parishes centrally, to ensure your donation is fairly distributed according to priority of need.

 Thank you and may God bless you all for this act of practical love for your Church and our community in a time of truly urgent need. It will help us immensely to continue to be of service to all during this crisis, but also, to still be here for you once this tragedy is over.

+Carmel

Bishop of Gibraltar

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