Mgr Philip Calleja who dedicated his life for migrants, dies aged 93

He founded the Migrants Commission in 1950 and built Dar L-Emigrant in 1971

Mgr Philip Calleja (Photo: Archdiocese of Malta)
Mgr Philip Calleja (Photo: Archdiocese of Malta)

Mgr Philip Calleja, who for more than 70 years worked for Maltese emigrants and refugees in Malta, died on Tuesday at the age of 93.

He passed away at the Dar tal-Kleru in Fleur‑de‑Lys at 3:45am.

Calleja was born on 8 December 1928 in Valletta and was ordained priest on 2 August 1953.

His first pastoral work was mainly with the children of Valletta but in 1956, Archbishop Mikiel Gonzi appointed him Deputy of the Office of Marriages, of the Archbishop's Curia.

For 50 years he was director of the Migrants Commission, which he founded in 1950, within Azzjoni Kattolika, due to the exodus of Maltese to other countries.

“Mgr Philip Calleja, the priest for Maltese emigrants and refugees in Malta, passed away this morning. We pray for his repose and thank God for his service and zeal for those uprooted from their home,” the Commission said.

In 1967, Calleja became Rector of the Jesuit church in Valletta, where he gave priestly service throughout his whole life, so much so that he used to call it "my church."

In 1969, when he became Monsignor, he organised and led the first Convention of Maltese Migrants, for which thousands of emigrants came to Malta.

Calleja offered assistance to those that made plans to live abroad and through the Commission also helped immigrants and refugees in Malta.

He built Dar L-Emigrant in 1971 in Castille Square, a living monument to the Maltese migrants. Calleja was committed to providing shelter for refugees, so much so, that by 2020 the Commission had 14 houses that sheltered around 400 refugees.

At the age of 91, Calleja was still attending regularly at Dar L-Emigrant and it was only because of the pandemic that he suspended this service.