Early Maltese presence in Egypt – North Africa

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By Fr John Caruana

The Franciscans (OFM)
In ‘Il-Franġiskani Maltin’, Fr George Aquilina OFM says that it is a fact that the Mediterranean people notwithstanding their different beliefs, mixed among themselves very easily and built a friendly relationship.

The Maltese sailed and conducted business. Amongst other ‘merchandise’, the slave trade was very common. It was the Franciscan brothers who bothered to redeem slaves. It was not rare that the Maltese who were taken as slaves became Muslims, only to become Christians later.

The Jesuits (SJ)
Fr Anthony Fenech SJ settled in Egypt after his ordination. His first assignment was in El Minya to learn Arabic. After working for two years in the Jesuits` High School, he asked to go to Armant a big village in upper Egypt where he took care of the social centre in the slum area of Gad-el-sid. Fr Fenech explains that “The Christians of Egypt, though now a minority at home, are nevertheless the largest Christian Community in the Moslem nations of the Middle East. The Copts, the name by which Egyptian Christians are known, are very proud of their apostolic origin in the person of St Mark. One can still sense in the unfolding of the Coptic rite some of the flavour of the early Christian liturgies.”

Fr Joseph Mizzi SJ who hails from St George’s parish in Gozo, went to Lebanon and Egypt after his ordination, where he studied and practised Arabic. The college-de-le Sainte Famille is popular with all strata of Egyptian society. “We maintain a deep respect for the respective religious identities of the students and provide religious instruction to all according to their various creeds and confession.”

The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (FMIHM)
Sr M Carmela Sammut from Zejtun has been working in Egypt since 1968.The Congregation has a Primary School, a clinic for the needy, and an orphanage which receives girls from 5 years on, including 20 year-olds.

Sr Imelda Muscat together with three Italian nuns arrived in Alexandria in September 1965. There, the Congregation had four schools next to the convents.

After three years in the United States, Sr Victoria Gauci of Hamrun was posted to Cairo and later to Assiut in Egypt. She was responsible for the school, visited villages, helped the poor and started vocational work which God blessed with many vocations.

Sr Pierdamiana Moran from Valletta studied at the school Our Lady Immaculate where she learnt to love the poor. She was sent to Cairo and later to Luxor where she served for eight years in an orphanage. Sr Moran had previously served for four years as Mother Superior.

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