President Renato completed a two-day visit
The President General’s mission trips are essential to maintain the bonds of unity and friendship within the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, regardless of the size of the country. Between the 20th and 21st of June 2023, after participating in the General Assembly in Rome, the 16th President General, brother Renato Lima de Oliveira, made his trip to Malta, originally scheduled for 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic.
He had the pleasant company of Father Andrés Motto, CM, international spiritual adviser, during his trip to Malta. The SSVP in Malta has 10 Conferences, chaired by the dynamic brother John Gauci-Maistre. During the days of the trip, in all the activities carried out, President Lima de Oliveira was accompanied by the members of the national board, formed by sister Emily Barbaro (Vice-president) and by brothers Anton Abdilla (Secretary) and Richard Galea (Treasurer).
The first day of activities began with the celebration of Holy Mass, by Father Motto, in the Chapel of the Jesuit Church, in Valletta, where the SSVP was founded in 1850. In the Gospel of that day (Matthew 5, 43-48), Jesus talked about loving our enemies and praying for them. Based on this biblical passage, the celebrant reinforced the need for forgiveness, conciliation and dialogue between Vincentians and those assisted.
After the mass, brother Renato visited the Archbishop of Malta, Bishop Charles Scicluna, followed by an audience with the Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai (Chinese). At both meetings, SSVP representatives thanked the Church for its support and requested authorization for the founding of new Conferences by the country’s parishes.
The end of the first day featured a speech by our President General, which took place at the Catholic Institute, in Floriana, when the achievements of the last seven years of his mandate were presented. The lecture focused on 10 highlights such as, for example, advances in communication, youth, formation, canonization, internal management, institutional relations, among others. After the lecture, there was a very fruitful moment of questions and answers.
The second day of activities took place on the Island of Gozo, starting with the celebration of Holy Mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Pinu, where Pope Francis was last year. Father Motto also celebrated this Mass, and the Gospel was that of the Annunciation of Mary. Pilgrims from all over the world, present at the Shrine, were able to pray together with the Vincentians for charity and world peace.
Soon after, there was an audience with the Bishop of Gozo, Bishop Anton Tuema, who expressed satisfaction with the work carried out by the various social pastorals in that diocese. In the afternoon, at the Manresa Retreat House, the President General made his traditional institutional presentation, followed by questions from the participants.
The ecclesiastical authorities visited by the Vincentian delegation, during the two days of activities, received a copy of the “Global Report” and the Vincentian cross that depicts corporal charity works. For the National Council, in addition to the “Global Report”, a painting alluding to the seven founders and a relic of Antoine-Frederic Ozanam was delivered, which will be taken to the headquarters of the National Council.
“This is the first time in the history of the SSVP of Malta that a President General has come here. I feel very happy about that. This is one of the roles of the President General: visiting countries and animating Vincentian Conferences, whether they are 10 or 1,000 Conferences. I take this opportunity to thank you for the affection with which we were received in Malta. This visit achieved all the intended objectives”, considered brother Renato.
For his part, the national president, brother John, thanked God for the presence of the leaders of the Council General in Maltese lands, and emphasized that, from now on, with the overcoming of the pandemic, the SSVP in Malta will grow a lot, with the grace of God, founding new Conferences across the country. “Poverty increased worldwide after the pandemic, in addition to the disastrous effects of wars, generating more unemployment, migration and hopeless refugees. To alleviate the suffering of the brothers, we Vincentians exist”, commented John. A national strategic plan will be prepared to expand the SSVP, in addition to a pilot project that intends to donate electric wheelchairs to those in need.
Malta is a country with 500,000 inhabitants (80% Catholic), located in the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Africa. But it has a rich history. Around the year 60 AD (Acts of the Apostles 27, 16 – 28), the apostle Saint Paul was on the island, after a shipwreck. He remained in Malta for some months, preaching the word of Our Lord Jesus Christ through the towns and villages to which he passed.
Malta is full of churches. People say there are 365 Catholic temples, one for each day of the year. During the days of the visit, brother Renato and Father Motto were able to visit several of these temples, such as the Co-Cathedral St. John, the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Church of St. Paul, among others.
Through attractive public policies for foreigners, Malta has become a very open country to receive young people who want to study and work. Therefore, today, in addition to the Maltese and tourists, there are many immigrants from Eastern Europe and Asia who came to seek opportunities for a better life for themselves and their families. The main languages spoken are Maltese and English, but all the other languages can be heard in the streets, such as Italian, French and Spanish.
“The visit to Malta represented, for me, a productive and enriching experience. Alongside President Renato, we got to know the Vincentian reality in Malta. Here, the Vincentian Family is incipient. In the past, we had a few missions and a hospital, but currently we have few active branches. I hope that the 10 SSVP Conferences that exist today, in addition to the new ones that will be founded soon, can make a difference in the lives of the poorest, and that the Vincentian charism spreads throughout the country”, emphasized Father Andrés Motto, whose masses were celebrated by him in Italian.
Click here to read the PGI’s institutional presentation, only in English.