Church origins and missions in Libya (2)

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By Fr John Caruana

Fr Daniel Farrugia started his pastoral mission as vice-parish priest in Birżebbugia. Then, in 1979, he was sent to Libya as a diocesan missionary at the bequest of Archbishop Mercieca.

His first mission lasted only two years as he was called back to Malta in 1981. However, he returned to Libya in 1997 and has been there since. As vicar general in the diocese of Tripoli, he first assisted Bishop Mgr Giovanni Martinelli, while at the same time serving as parish priest to the English speaking and African communities. He also served the Italian and French communities and as exected, the Maltese community who consisted of Maltese working there or married to Libyan nationals. Fr Daniel was also responsible for the work of CARITAS with immigrants. At that time, thousands of immigrants travelling from Eritrea were being held in Libya.

The Nuns: a very important presence
In Tripoli there were 50 nuns belonging to five congregations, one of them being the Maltese congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart (Ta’ Nuzzo). Their principal work is with disabled persons, with the elderly and with orphans. At the same time, the nuns help in the pastoral work.

Until recently, there were four Maltese nuns: Sr Amadea Ellul DSH from Zejtun and Sr Antoinette Calleja DSH from Qormi, who served in Libya for 42 years. There are also Sr Mary Pace FMM and Sr Mary Saliba FMM who both spent more than 60 years in Libya.

Many Maltese have been in Libya for generations. In the old city, there was a big Maltese Community, so much so that that the church dedicated to Santa Maria degli Angeli was once built with stones brought over from Malta. In recent years, we had several mixed marriages between Maltese and Libyans.

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