Ecclesiastical turf? - letters -
Sunday, July 29, 2007

Professor Edward A. Mallia, Attard.

In his "Questions to the Gozo Curia" (The Sunday Times, July 15) Alan Deidun highlighted the rather poor record of the Gozo Curia in environmental matters. But apart from the cases he mentioned, we did have a public demonstration of this recently, when the Gozo Curia was silent on the Ramla l-Hamra development, until prodded by the delicate non-intervention of the Environment Commission of the Archdiocese of Malta.

The commission felt it could only comment on a "procedural" point, to wit the threatened boycott of an NGO by the chairman of the MEPA board, Andrew Calleja. According to its chairman, the commission has no "jurisdiction" over environmental matters in Gozo.

Surely "jurisdiction" is too grandiose a term to use in this situation; it suggests that the commission has a somewhat inflated idea of its "powers". But taking the statement at face value, and forgetting the tortuous ecclesiastical relationship between Malta and Gozo prior to the installation of Archbishop Gonzi, I find its implications rather intriguing.

Mgr Paul Cremona is the Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Malta; witness the recent conferment of the pallium in Rome. Now an archdiocese has no meaning in isolation; it must have one or more dioceses under its wing - in our case the diocese of Gozo and possibly that of Gibraltar. So a title like Environment Commission of the Archdiocese (not the Church) of Malta, implies some sort of "jurisdiction" over matters in the associated dioceses.

And when it comes to a seamless matter like the environment, there is all the more reason for not invoking certainly silly and probably incorrect notions of ecclesiastical turf.

What would have happened had the commission commented on the merits of the Ramla case (something that not even Dr Deidun dared to do), or indeed on the Nadur cemetery (on which Dr Deidun was quite trenchant)? A direct call from Mgr Mario Grech to Mgr Cremona demanding that the latter stick to the Malta turf, and leave Gozo in peace? The same thing, but routed through the Vatican mobile phone network? The commission chairman gets sacked or resigns or is had up in front of the Inquisition?

As matters have turned out, the commission's non-intervention must have generated some red faces in the Gozo Curia, one would like to think from some sense of shame, but possibly through fits of apoplexy at the meddling into the affairs of the highest institutions of the island region of Gozo.

Unfortunately, fits of apoplexy have little environmental value. A clear statement on the environmental merits of the case from the commission would have done much more.
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29 Jul 2007 by