Ittra Pastorali mill-E.T. Mons. Anton Teuma

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FIL-FTUĦ TAS-SENA PASTORALI 2022-2023

“U BEDA JFISSRILHOM L-ISKRITTURA”(Lq 24:27)

Introduzzjoni

Għeżież ħuti kappillani, saċerdoti, reliġjużi u Nsara Għawdxin u barranin li tgħixu fi gżiritna,

Issa li għadda s-sajf, qed nibdew Sena Pastorali ġdida. Din is-sena, jiġifieri minn issa sas-sajf li ġej, ser tkun iddedikata għas-smigħ tal-Kelma ta’ Alla. Aħna l-Insara għandna bżonn kbir li nisimgħu din il-Kelma! Il-Kelma tgħinna nindunaw li l-ħajja tal-fidi tagħna, aktar minn kollox, hija relazzjoni mal-persuna ta’ Ġesù ħaj.

Meta nindunaw li l-fidi hija relazzjoni ma’ Ġesù, nibdew nagħrfu li, li temmen mhux toqol, imma rigal; li tmur għall-Ewkaristija tal-Ħadd mhux piż, imma festa; li titlob mhux dmir, imma laqgħa ma’ Ħabib sinċier; li tgħin mhux sagrifiċċju, imma att ta’ mħabba lejn dak stess li tak kulma għandek!

Il-ġrajja ta’ Għemmaws (Lq 24:13-35)

Huma u sejrin lura lejn Għemmaws, id-dixxipli rrakkuntaw lil Ġesù l-frustrazzjonijiet u l- fallimenti tagħhom. U hu qagħad jismagħhom. Iżda f’mument minnhom Ġesù b’ton sod qalilhom: “Kemm intom boloh u tqal biex temmnu dak li qalu l-profeti!”. U beda jfissrilhom dak kollu li l-Iskrittura kienet tgħid fuqu. U dan kollu serviehom biex għarfuh fil-Qsim tal- Ħobż. Nistgħux aħna wkoll illum niltaqgħu ma’ Ġesù ħaj fis-smigħ tal-Kelma u fl-Ewkaristija?

Is-sejħa li għamlilna l-Papa Franġisku f’Ta’ Pinu

Il-miġja tal-Papa Franġisku fostna tixbah ħafna lix-xena ta’ Ġesù li jindaħal miexi mad-dixxipli mdejqa fil-mixja tagħhom lejn Għemmaws. U wara li semagħhom, wasslilhom bil-qawwa l- Kelma setgħana tiegħu. Fid-diskors li għamel f’Ta’ Pinu fit-2 ta’ April 2022, il-Papa għamlilna sejħa ċara ħafna. Talabna biex inkunu Knisja li tevanġelizza, “għax il-ferħ tal-Knisja huwa li tevanġelizza!”.

Il-Papa jgħidilna li kollox beda mis-siegħa tal-falliment, tal-mewt ta’ Ġesù fuq is-Salib. U dak li deher bħala tmiem kien fil-fatt il-bidu tal-Knisja. Dan jidher ukoll fl-istorja tas-Santwarju Ta’ Pinu. Il-kappella mitluqa u fi stat ħażin, iddestinata biex tkun ikkundannata, inbidlet f’santwarju għajn ta’ fidi u bewsa ta’ faraġ għal Malta u Għawdex.

Il-Pjan Pastorali tas-sena l-oħra: “X’intom tgħidu?”

Bħad-dixxipli ta’ Għemmaws aħna wkoll ninsabu xi ftit jew wisq mifxula. L-eżami tal- kuxjenza li għamilna matul is-sena pastorali li għaddiet, l-istħarriġ magħmul mill-grupp taż- żgħażagħ li qed jgħinu fil-midja djoċesana, kif ukoll l-impressjoni ġenerali ta’ ħafna, juru li għaddejjin minn żmien diffiċli u delikat.

Il-fidi m’għadx għandha l-ewwel post fil-ħajja ta’ ħafna minna. In-numru ta’ dawk li jattendu għall-quddiesa tal-Ħadd kulma jmur qed jonqos. Dawk li jattendu fil-parti l-kbira tagħhom huma anzjani; ħafna żgħażagħ abbandunaw il-Knisja u tilfu l-fiduċja tagħhom fiha. It-talb fil- familji ftit li xejn għadu jeżisti. Il-membri tal-għaqdiet u l-gruppi tal-katekeżi huma magħmula minn ħafna nies imdaħħla fiż-żmien u n-numru tagħhom dejjem jonqos, l-aktar wara l-

pandemija. Anki l-istess gruppi ta’ voluntiera li jduru mal-festa tar-raħal qed jiltaqgħu ma’ diffikultajiet.

Minkejja l-bruda jew l-għeja fil-mixja tal-fidi, din il-grazzja tas-sejħa għall-Evanġelizzazzjoni li l-Papa qiegħed jagħmlilna mhix qed taqa’ fuq widnejn torox! Dan jidher ċar mill-eżami tal- kuxjenza li għamilna fir-realtajiet kollha tal-Knisja lokali matul is-sena pastorali li għaddiet. Nistgħu ngħidu li ħarġet ċara t-talba mqanqla tal-poplu ta’ Alla fil-gżira tagħna biex ikollu okkażjonijiet li jgħinuh jisma’ u jifhem aktar il-Kelma ta’ Alla.

U beda jfissrilhom l-Iskrittura

“Fil-bidu kienet il-Kelma, u l-Kelma kienet ma’ Alla u l-Kelma kienet Alla” (Ġw 1:1). Il-bidu tal-Evanġelju skont San Ġwann huwa tifkira ċara tal-bidu tal-Ktieb tal-Ġenesi. Il-“bidu” li għalih jirreferu l-Ġenesi u Ġwanni ma jridx juri biss l-ewwel mumenti tal-istorja, imma fuq kollox dan “il-bidu” huwa l-kawża tal-istorja. Huwa “l-bidu” li joħloq u jiġġenera dak kollu li ġie wara. Fl-oriġni ta’ kulma jeżisti hemm dejjem il-kuntatt tal-Kelma ta’ Alla mal-kaos. Hija din il-Kelma ta’ Alla li tista’ tqanqal il-qalb tagħna l-Għawdxin biex niltaqgħu mal-persuna ta’ Ġesù u nagħtu lil Alla l-post li tassew jixraqlu f’ħajjitna.

Kelma li toħloq

Ġesù jxebbah il-Kelma ma’ “raġel li jkun xeħet iż-żerriegħa fl-art. Rieqed jew imqajjem, billejl jew binhar, iż-żerriegħa tinbet u tikber, bla ma jaf kif. L-art trodd minnha nfisha l-ewwel il- barma, imbagħad is-sbula, imbagħad il-qamħ mimli fis-sbula. U meta l-frott isir, malajr il- bidwi jmidd idu għall-minġel, għax ikun wasal żmien il-ħsad” (Mk 4:26-29).

Il-Kelma hija Ġesù nnifsu (ara Ġw 1:14), li fih, bih u għalih kollox kien maħluq u kollox qiegħed iżomm (ara Kol 1:15-16). Hija Ġesù, u kull darba li nisimgħuha tinħoloq fina u tagħmilna tiegħu: Kristjani. Il-Kelma, flimkien mas-Sagramenti, hija t-triq ipprivileġġjata li biha l-Ispirtu Santu jkompli joħloq il-komunitajiet Insara ta’ żmienna, il-Knisja.

Din il-Kelma għandha l-qawwa li toħloq Insara ġodda u komunitajiet ta’ fidi anki fl-irħula tagħna llum. Il-bniedem tal-lum iħoss aktar minn qatt qabel il-bżonn ta’ direzzjoni u orjentament. Il-Kelma ta’ Alla minn naħa tgħinu jagħraf ix-xewqat ta’ Alla għalih, u min-naħa l-oħra, waqt li jagħraf u jwettaq dan, il-bniedem tal-lum jista’ jagħraf min tassew hu, fi kliem ieħor, min hu f’għajnejn min ħalqu.

Kelma li tfejjaq

Il-pubblikani u l-midinbin kienu jħossuhom ’il bogħod minn Alla minħabba kliem ta’ kundanna u nuqqas ta’ akkoljenza min-naħa ta’ dawk li kienu b’xi mod jirrappreżentaw l-istrutturi tar- reliġjon. Ġesù, bil-persuna u bil-kelma tiegħu, mess il-qalb ta’ dawn in-nies u għenhom iħossuhom milqugħa u maħbuba. Hekk ġralhom Mattew il-pubblikan, il-mara Samaritana, Żakkew u l-midinbin l-oħra tal-Vanġelu.

Huma diversi dawk in-nies li kienu qrib tal-Knisja u minħabba raġuni jew oħra ħassewhom imweġġgħin, u minħabba f’hekk tbiegħdu mill-ħajja tal-fidi u kultant waslu biex ħaduha kontra Alla u kontra dak kollu li għandu x’jaqsam miegħu. Kienu diversi dawk in-nisa u rġiel li sofrew minħabba abbużi sesswali, fiżiċi jew morali mingħand nies li suppost kellhom juru mħabba, ħniena, ħlewwa u kura paterna u materna.

Trid tkun il-Kelma ta’ Alla li timla l-qalb ta’ dawk kollha li huma mibgħuta biex iwassluha, u terġa’ tagħti tama u fejqan lil dawk li huma mweġġgħa u qalbhom maqtugħa!

Kelma li tħeġġeġ

Fl-istess waqt jidher li ħafna minna, in-nies li ngħixu l-prattika reliġjuża, għaddejjin minn żmien ta’ għeja, telqa u nuqqas ta’ ħeġġa. Jidher li ħafna minna li għadna nieħdu sehem fil- quddiesa tal-Ħadd, nattendu għal-laqgħat fil-gruppi tagħna u nibagħtu lil uliedna għall- katekiżmu fil-parroċċi, nagħmlu dan bi drawwa u spiss mingħajr ma nifhmu s-sens veru ta’ dak li nagħmlu, u għalhekk mingħajr ma niddeċiedu verament li nkunu dixxipli awtentiċi ta’ Ġesù.

Din is-sitwazzjoni kompliet tiggrava fiż-żmien tal-pandemija. Ħafna minn dawk li kienu jmorru l-knisja bi drawwa ntebħu li din id-drawwa tista’ tgħaddi mingħajrha, u billi qatt ma kien hemm deċiżjoni vera u proprja, ma rawhiex bi kbira li jħallu l-prattika tal-fidi. Il-miġja f’pajjiżna ta’ ħafna nies barranin b’mentalitajiet u twemmin differenti tista’ tkompli ddgħajjef il-konvinzjonijiet tal-fidi li s’issa aktarx kienu aktar fenomeni soċjali u kulturali milli għażliet personali u ekkleżjali.

Hija din il-Kelma li trid tgħinna niddixxernu u nagħżlu bejn dak li hu pastorali u dak li hu sempliċement folkloristiku – minkejja li jkunu ħafna dawk li jipparteċipaw, il-folkloristiku għandu bżonn li jiġi gradwalment mgħammed, ikkatekizzat u Kristjanizzat. Hija l-Kelma li trid tgħinna ngħixu r-reliġjożità tagħna b’fidi dejjem aktar matura.

Il-qawwa tal-Kelma

Tista’ verament il-Kelma ta’ Alla tagħti l-ħajja, tfejjaq u tħeġġeġ?

Iva, tista’! Dan jistgħu jgħiduh il-ħafna Nsara Għawdxin li jiddedikaw ħin biex jisimgħu l- Kelma. Hawn diversi gruppi fil-parroċċi tagħna li jiltaqgħu biex jisimgħu l-Kelma ta’ Alla u jirriflettu fuqha biex jgħixuha. Dawn kollha jistgħu jixhdu kif il-Kelma ta’ Alla għenithom jidħlu aktar fil-fond fl-esperjenza sabiħa tal-fidi.

Għalhekk inħeġġeġ bil-qawwa u minn qalbi lilkom ilkoll Insara Għawdxin, mill-kbar saż- żgħar, biex tilqgħu l-istedina li l-kappillani u s-saċerdoti qegħdin jagħmlulkom fil-parroċċi tagħkom din is-sena u tattendu għall-gruppi li jiltaqgħu biex jirriflettu fuq il-Kelma ta’ Alla. Huwa l-aktar ikel bnin li flimkien mal-Ewkaristija għandkom tippretendu mingħandna. Huwa l-aktar ikel sustanzjuż li aħna msejħin minn Alla biex nagħtukom.

Mogħtija mill-Kurja tal-Isqof, il-Belt Victoria, fit-30 ta’ Settembru 2022, Tifkira ta’ San Ġirolmu, Presbiteru u Duttur tal-Knisja.

Anton Teuma

Isqof ta’ Għawdex

Mons. Edward Zammit

Kanċillier

Pastoral Letter by H.L. Mgr Anton Teuma (Bishop of Gozo)

AT THE START OF THE PASTORAL YEAR 2022-2023

“AND JESUS EXPLAINED THE SCRIPTURES TO THEM” (Lk 24:27)

Introduction

My dear brethren parish-priests, priests, religious, Gozitan Christians and foreigners living among us,

Summer is over and we are starting a new Pastoral Year. This year, from today to the coming summer, is being dedicated to the listening to the Word of God. We Christians are in great need of listening to the Word of God. The Word of God helps us understand that our life of faith is above all else a loving relationship with Jesus.

When we become aware that faith is a relationship with Jesus, we begin to understand that to believe is not a burden but a gift; that to participate in the Sunday Eucharist is not a yoke but a feast; that to pray is not a duty but a meeting with a sincere friend; that to help out is not a sacrifice but an act of love to your benefactor.

The Emmaus event (Lk 24:13-35)

As they were returing to Emmaus, the disciples told Jesus about their frustrations and failures. And he listened to them. At one point he pointed out to them in no uncertain terms: “How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said!” (Lk 24:25). This led them eventually to recognise him in the Breaking of the Bread. Can we not today meet with Jesus through listening to his Word and the Eucharist?

His Holiness’ invitation to us at Ta’ Pinu

His Holiness’ visit among us closely resembles Jesus joining the forlorn disciples on their way to Emmaus. After listening to their woes he emphatically delivered his powerful Word. In his Address at Ta’ Pinu on the 2nd of April 2022, His Holiness gave us a very clear mandate. He enjoined us to be an evangelising Church, “because the joy of the Church is to evangelise”.

The Pope reiterates that everything started with the hour of defeat, the death of Jesus on the Cross. What looked like the end was in fact the beginning of the Church. This also obtains in the history of Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary. The wayward chapel in a dilapidated state and destined to be profaned was transformed into a sanctuary, a source of faith and kiss of mercy to Malta and Gozo.

Last year’s Pastoral Plan: “What are you talking about?”

Like the disciples of Emmaus we are more or less confused. The examination of conscience which we conducted last year and the survey carried out by a group of young people who are involved in the diocesan media as well as the general feeling attest to the fact that our times are particularly stressful and delicate.

Faith does not occupy any longer the first place in the life of a good number among us. The number of those who attend Sunday Mass is diminishing gradually. Those who attend are in their majority elderly people; a good number of youths have abandoned the Church and lost their faith in her. Families who pray at home are a handful. The members who frequent ecclesial movements and groups of cathechesis are quite advanced in age and their number is dwindling, particularly following the pandemic. The groups of volunteers who gravitate around the village festa are facing challenges as well.

In spite of the growing indifference and slowing down in one’s life of faith, the Pope’s call to evangelisation has not fallen on deaf ears! This emerges quite clearly from the collective examination of conscience carried out at all levels of the local Church last year. We can safely say that the People of God on our island yearns for occasions which facilitate the listening to and understanding better the Word of God.

And He started to explain the Scriptures

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).

The opening of the Gospel according to John clearly recalls the Book of Genesis. The “beginning” referred to by Genesis and John does not merely indicate the first moments of history, but the cause of history. It is the “beginning” which creates and generates all that subsequently came into being. At the origin of every existing being lies the contact between the Word of God and chaos. It is the Word of God which can move our hearts to encounter Jesus and assign him his rightful place in our lives.

A Word which creates

Jesus likens the Word to a “man (who) scatters seed in his field. He sleeps at night, is up and about during the day, and all the while the seeds are sprouting and growing. Yet he does not know how it happens. The soil itself makes the plants grow and bear fruit; first the tender stalk appears, then the ear, and finally the ear full of corn. When the corn is ripe, the man starts cutting it with his sickle, because harvest time has come” (Mk 4:26-29).

The Word is Jesus himself (cfr Jn 1:14) who in him, through him and for him everything was created and is sustained (cfr Col 1:15-16). The Word is Jesus and everytime we listen to it, it is born in us and bonds us with him: Christians. The Word, together with the Sacraments, is the privileged way through which the Holy Spirit continues to create the Christian communities, that is, the Church in our times.

This Word has the power to create new Christians and communities of faith even in our localities today. Contemporary man feels perhaps more than ever before the need for direction and orientation. The Word of God on one hand helps to discern God’s will for him and on the other hand, while he becomes aware of and carries out this will, he understands who he really is, in other words who he is in the eyes of his Creator.

A Word which heals

The publicans and sinners felt cut off from God because of the condemnation and lack of acceptance by those who somehow represented the institutional structures of religion. Jesus with his bearing and words touched the hearts of these deeply wounded people and helped them feel welcome and loved. This was Matthew’s the tax collector, the Samaritan woman’s, Zaccheus’ and other sinners’ experience as recounted in the Gospel.

There are not a few who were close to the Church and because of some reason felt aggrieved and consequently drifted away from the life of faith and at times even spurned God and all he stands for. A number of men and women suffered due to sexual abuse, whether moral or physical, at the hands of those who were supposed to show them love, mercy, tenderness and maternal and paternal attention.

It can only be the Word of God which fills the heart of those who are sent to proclaim it so that it can revive the hope and initiate a process of healing in those whose hearts have been ravished and broken.

A Word which inspires

At the same time it seems that many of us who adhere to pratices of a religious life experience tiredness, a sense of weariness and lack of enthusiasm. It seems that for many of us who still frequent Sunday Mass, and attend our group meetings and send our children to cathechism lessons in our parishes, do so out of custom without understanding deeply the real significance of our actions, thus without committing ourselves seriously to be authentic disciples of Jesus.

This situation worsened during the pandemic. Many who frequented the Church as a custom realised that they could do without it and since they never took a proper personal decision regarding their faith, it did not take much for them to abandon the practice of the faith. The coming to our island of many foreigners with their particular mindsets and different beliefs could further weaken the convictions of our faith which up till now were more of a social phenomena than proper personal and ecclesial commitments.

This Word helps us to discern what is pastoral and what is just folklore – in spite of the substantial number of participants, the “folkoristic” must to be baptised, cathechised and Christianised. It is the Word of God which helps us to live our religiosity with ever deepening mature faith.

The power of the Word

Can the Word of God truly give life, heal and inspire?

Yes, it can! Many Gozitan Christians who have dedicated time to listen to the Word attest to this. There are various groups in our parishes who meet to listen to the Word of God and reflect upon it to live it out. They can witness to how the Word of God helped them intensify their beautiful experience of the faith.

I strongly and heartily entreat you all Gozitan Christians to accept the invitation which the parish- priests and clergy are extending in your respective parishes this year to attend any of the groups to reflect upon the Word of God. It is the most nourishing food that together with the Eucharist you rightly expect from us. It is the most nourishing food which we are enpowered by God to provide you with.

Given from the Bishop’s Curia, Victoria, on the 30th of September 2022, Memory of St Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church.

Anton Teuma

Bishop of Gozo

Mgr Edward Zammit

Chancellor

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