Pontifical Mass on the national feast of Independence Day
St John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta
21st September 2018
It is only right and fitting that we, Maltese and Gozitans, celebrate Independence Day because on this day in 1964 Malta became a sovereign and independent state, and she took her rightful place among the community of nations. It was a longstanding dream that came true at the end of a long and winding road, a dream that continued to be strengthened in the years that followed. On this day, we greet our compatriots who worked tirelessly for Malta to have, in spite of our small size, a voice among the community of sovereign states.
The word ‘independence’ itself indicates the exercise of the power and autonomous jurisdiction of statehood, without interference or imposition from another state or power. In other words, it means freedom from colonial rule. In this sense it implies and indicates a process whose roots can be found in the years prior to 1964 and that continued after and still continues to this day. Having said this, the word ‘independence’ also has its own limits: yes, sovereign states are independent from each other where sovereignty and autonomy of power are concerned; however, they are also interdependent. States still need to work together and indeed they do depend on each other for the good of their citizens. Following the catastrophe of two devastating world wars (the first which ended a century ago in 1918), Europe felt the pressing need to build first an economic structure and later a political structure to guarantee peace on the continent.
This quest for peace was the fundamental principle that the founding fathers of the European project embraced and promoted until their dream became reality. They understood that peace will flourish through solidarity between nations. They understood that if every nation goes it alone, it would only lead to reciprocal destruction. Today, maybe more than ever before, we need to recall these fundamental principles.
Many populations in Europe and around the world seem to ascribe more value to the individual and national interest over the common interest of the family of nations. Today we need the prophetic voice of solidarity: solidarity between different states and peoples; solidarity in the internal social policies of the state; and intergenerational solidarity, that is solidarity between generations.
As a people, because of our small size and also because of the strategic geographical position of our country, we always understood and promoted international solidarity. At this juncture of our nation’s history, it is right that the Maltese Government appeals to the principle of solidarity between our fellow members of the European Union in order to find an adequate and efficient response to the phenomenon of immigration. When a burden is shared it becomes lighter to carry, whereas a crisis in solidarity would shake the very foundations on which the European Union is built; it would also undermine the very fabric of the society of nations.
While we make a heartfelt appeal for solidarity, we acknowledge that we are also committing ourselves to show solidarity to those who are in urgent need of aid; people who are fleeing a cruel environment, a violent contempt of the dignity of the human person, a harsh fate of slavery, even torture and death.
Solidarity is also an essential value in the life of Maltese society. This is expressed in the social policies that the Maltese State has embraced prior to Independence and that have been implemented by all governments from Independence to this day. We can also see this solidarity in the State’s commitment to co-operate and help social partners that promote social action for the common good. Among these we find the Church in Malta, a pioneer in many fields of social and charitable action. But the Church is not alone in these endeavours. There are several useful initiatives spearheaded by several groups operating in society that are inspired from the necessity and benefits of solidarity.
In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis reminds us that everything and everyone is connected, or rather interconnected. Solidarity ensures that the burden of one is shared with others just as wealth is shared by everyone. It is understood that when the economy is doing well, as is our case, then solidarity becomes easier. But we also acknowledge that the poor are always with us (cfr Mt 26:11) and the new types of poverty demand of us new expressions of solidarity.
To conclude, I would like to emphasise the urgent need for intergenerational solidarity, the solidarity between generations. Pope Francis insists on a type of solidarity that does not only consider the immediate impact of decisions but also looks at the consequences that these decisions taken by our generation will have on the quality of life of the future generations that have yet to be born. Among these decisions are those that have an impact on the environmental heritage of our country, on the cultural, historical, architectural and archeological legacy of this gracious land to which we owe our name. Every decision we take today will shape our quality of life but it will also shape, for better or for worse, the quality of life of future generations. Thus, we are reminded of our duty and the opportunity to show solidarity with them too.
On the solemn day in which we celebrate our independence as a nation we are reminded that this step brought a great responsibility for us all: the responsibility to live in solidarity with other nations, among ourselves and with future generations.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta