[WATCH] Shame on Maltese, says Archbishop of ‘new colonisers’ exploiting foreign workers

Independence Day: hard-hitting homily from Charles Scicluna says Maltese are new colonisers of foreign workers subjected to slave-like conditions

Archbishop Charles Scicluna
Archbishop Charles Scicluna

Malta’s Archibishop Charles Scicluna delivered a hard-hitting homily at the annual concelebration for Independence Day, in which he said Malta’s greatest challenge will be to revolutionise its vision of economy and society.

In his homily, Scicluna asked if the Maltese had created a new dependence on rapid finanical gain and rampant development, and acquiesced to the “unacceptable reality of allowing fellow Maltese to endure poor living conditions and subsisting on wages that can barely get some through a week, never mind a month.”

“Have we gone from being the colonised to the colonisers?” he asked of the way Malta’s economic success had exploited foreign workers in low-income jobs and subjected to slavery-like conditions. “Yes, we are guilty of all these things. And we should feel ashamed.”

In a homily that touched upon pithy issues of social development, poverty and benefits fraud, as well as economic growth, Scicluna said Malta cannot simply rely on traditional metrics to toast its records when poverty and discrimination were also a daily reality in Malta.

“An economic system that does not work in favour of everyone, that destroys the environment and that results in a diminished quality of life, requires restructuring, transformation, and renewal,” Scicluna told MPs at St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.

“We cannot continue to rely on economic metrics that fail to take into consideration the quality and dignity of life. We cannot allow a climate to persist where the poor are treated with disdain and the foreigners invited into our country to serve us, are despised and insulted under the false guise of nationalism.”

While Malta’s prime minister Robert Abela was away at the United Nations in New York this week together wth deputy prime minister Chris Fearne, it fell upon Owen Bonnici to assume duties as agent prime minister.

In his homily, Scicluna said that after 59 years of independence, Malta had to contemplate a long and difficult journey towards justice, and forge a new economic model.

“It is not the Church’s role to provide detailed and technical solutions. These should be entrusted to the capable authorities in dialogue with experts, social partners, and civil society. Yet is our duty as a Church to raise these issues and – guided by the teachings of Pope Francis – to support and encourage the transition from an economy that kills to an economy of life.”

Scicluna touched upon issues of occupational health and safety for workers, cited “slave-life conditions” for foreign workers, and the spate of construction deaths plaguing the industry.

“There are no easy or simple answers to these questions. However, the solution certainly does not lie in ceasing to ask and seek... Today, as we celebrate Independence Day, let us pray for our country to be freed from dependence on the idols of our times that push us towards always having more and from the rat-race that ends up crushing us humans and our common home.”

On poverty, Scicluna said it was scandalous that an increasingly large number of people were sleeping rough, with hundreds becoming dependent on soup kitchens for their nourishment. “Like the rich man in the Gospel we read today, we are so engaged in chasing after success, materialism and recognition that we often fail to notice the homeless human beings lying on our doorstep… there are certain matters we must never grow complacent about.”

Scicluna also condemned the theft of social benefits, referencing the benefit-fraud racket, saying the corrupt practice that enabled it was an abuse of sovereignty.