Book about pastoral visits to Mosta
Reviewed by Anne Lewis
After the success of the book Il-Viżta Pastorali tal-Isqof De Bussan fil-Mosta (The Pastoral Visit of De Bussan in Mosta), Chev. Stanley Mangion is now presenting us with another translation from Latin to Maltese entitled Il-Mosta bejn is-snin 1686 u 1709 fid-dawl tal-erba’ żjajjar pastorali tal-Isqof ta’ Malta Fra Davide Cocco Palmieri (Mosta between 1686 and 1709 in the light of the four pastoral visits by the Bishop of Malta Fra Davide Cocco Palmieri).
At the time when Fra Cocco Palmieri was Bishop of Malta, our islands were under the rule of the Order of the Knights of St John. It was a time when the Church was undergoing many important reforms which stemmed from the Council of Trent. Two of the major reforms were that the Bishop was obliged to make his residence in his own diocese and that he was to fulfil his obligations to make pastoral visits to the parishes of his diocese.
Bishop Cocco Palmieri made four pastoral visits to Mosta. The first one took place in November 1686. The state of affairs in this village was much wanting. The parish priest, Fr Consalvi Dimech, was an alcoholic and as a result he slacked in his pastoral work as well as in the administration of the parish. The Baptism and Confirmation registers were not kept up to date, tabernacles were broken, hosts were mouldy, keys to the cabinet where the liturgical vestments were kept were lost and most unfortunately, many dying people were left to pass to the next life without the comfort of receiving the Last Rites. The Bishop gave strict orders, on condition of suspension from one’s duty if his orders were not adhered to. Moreover, so as to safeguard the temporal and spiritual needs of the parish, he raised the status of the vice-parish priest investing on him the power to act as parish priest in the event that the parish priest himself was lacking in his responsibilities.
The second visit was made in May 1693, only seven years after the first visit. The parish priest had in the meantime reformed himself and the situation had improved significantly. In October 1699 Bishop Palmieri paid his third visit and the parishioners, together with the parish priest Fr Lawrence Habela and all the clerics welcomed him with great pomp with a display of fireworks as a sign of great respect towards the Bishop. The fourth and last pastoral visit made by this eminent bishop was in 1709. During this visit the Bishop gave instructions to the priests and the clerics of minor orders to dress decently particularly in public.
These four visits were of great temporal and moral good for the parish and its parishioners. A lot of work was carried out including the building of the spires, the organ, the rebuilding of the chapel of St Paul of Qlejja, etc. The parishioners, who were receiving better spiritual attention, contributed more to the care of the parish church, the wayside chapels and the participation in the liturgical functions.