[WATCH] Bishops’ missive on housing problem: ‘developers must be just and compassionate’

Bishops make appeal for unity and solidarity response to Malta’s housing situation

Archbishop Charles Scicluna
Archbishop Charles Scicluna

Malta’s bishops have called for a response of solidarity to the housing situation, especially to the difficulties faced by families, young people and foreigners who struggle to find accommodation they can afford to rent or buy.

Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech and Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi, addressed the housing situation in Malta in a pastoral letter for the nativity of the Virgin Mary at the Victory Day pontifical mass at the Naxxar parish church on Friday evening.

The letter is inspired by the encyclical letter of Pope Francis Laudato si’, in which the Pope deals with the problem of housing and how the home is an essential part of the experience of human dignity as it gives hope and stability.

“Our appeal is that politicians unite in a common front… to have policies, laws and regulations that tackle the emergency situations we are facing in housing,” Scicluna says in a video prepared for the statement.

Scicluna said developers had a right to use their capital to create wealth, but called for restraint when it comes to the “blind economic laws of demand and supply”.

“There are principles of equity, justice, solidarity and compassion which need to be factored in if we are to have to the social conscience we Christians are known for.

In the letter, the Bishops say: “What does it profit you in gaining the whole world, when at the moment of judgement, he who will judge you in justice and truth, tells you: ‘I was living in your property giving you your due and you turned me out on the streets to satisfy your greed?’ What does it profit you in paying foreigners a pittance an hour for their work while at the same time depriving them of their rights; or what does it profit you in turning entire families out on the streets in order to make an alternative income of thousands a month, all the while flaunting your generosity by donating substantial sums to your parish? Do you honestly think that Christ rejoices in such offerings? Or does he not rejoice more in mercy and solidarity shown to those who work and strive to provide for the family and cannot afford a rent that spiked from €400 to €900 a month?”

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In the pastoral letter the Bishops make these five appeals:

• To the Maltese society to not become indifferent when faced with emergency social situations that are creating a new type of poverty.

• To the politicians so that the housing issue does not become a partisan political football but is instead an opportunity to demonstrate that they are willing to work together for the common good.

• To the landlords and developers to be always guided by social conscience and in accordance with the principles of solidarity and responsibility.

• To the tenants who have a duty to pay the rent on time, take care of the property they are living in and not cause any damage to the property. The bishops also remind that social justice demands that one resorts to social housing only if they really are in need, without abusing of the social welfare system.

To the ecclesial communities to continue to work hand-in-hand with civil society to find answers for emergency situations, and so that the Church, which through its various entities offers a home to hundreds of people, continues to be an example and assists those who are in difficulty.

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