[WATCH] Archbishop blesses graves of interdicted Labourites in plea for forgiveness

Men and women were excommunicated by the Church in the 1960s for voting Labour and buried in unconsecrated ground at the Addolorata cemetry

Archbishop Charles Scicluna blesses the grave of Labour politician Guze Ellul Mercer
Archbishop Charles Scicluna blesses the grave of Labour politician Guze Ellul Mercer

Malta’s archbishop carried out the blessing of the cemetery graves in which Labour politicians and activists interdicted by the Maltese church in the 1960s were interred.

Popularly known as the ‘interdiction’ (l-interdett), occupants of the formerly unconsecrated ground derisively named ‘the rubbish tip’ (il-mizbla) include the Labour politician and writer Guze Ellul Mercer, author of Maltese classic Leli ta’ Haz-Zghir.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna announced in an homily he would bless the graves of “those who had a wall erected between them and those who died at peace with the Church. Today that wall has fallen. And I pray for forgiveness of the wall that was built between us.”

Ellul Mercer passed away in 1961 under excommunication from the Catholic Church.

In January 1961, at the height of the Catholic Church’s feud with the Labour Party, the diocesan commission issued a circular read out in all churches condemning the MLP’s affiliation with the Socialist International and the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organisation.

In a bid to wield its power over the god-fearing masses, it declared a sin the reading of Labour newspapers and the attendance of MLP meetings.

At the time, the church still played an important role in Maltese society. But as Pope John XXIII opened up the Vatican to a new spring with the Vatican Council II, declaring it no longer a mortal sin to vote for the communists, it was archbishop Michael Gonzi who declared it a mortal sin for socialist material to be read and propagated.

The circular specifically said: “Mgr Archbishop believes that in today’s circumstances, one had to condemn with all force, the following actions: (a) the grave offence by word of mouth or in writing or in actions against the Archbishop or the clergy. (b) Supporting the leaders of MLP, until they insist of battling out with the church and they keep contact with socialists, communists and AAPSO…. No one can print, write, sell, buy, deliver or read these [Labour-published] newspapers without falling in mortal sin.”

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