70th anniversary of the award of the George Cross

Ecumenical Service Of Celebration and Thanksgiving
Organised by the British Residents Association Malta G.C.

Message by H.L. Bishop Mario Grech
18th April 2012, at the Cathedral, Gozo

This evening we are gathered here to express our gratitude to God for three distinctive gifts: (1) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee; (2) the 70th anniversary of Operation Pedestal which the Maltese baptised as the “Santa Marija Convoy”, and (3) the 70th anniversary of the award of the George Cross offered to our Nation to “honour her brave people”.

The three events speak loudly of the splendid human richness that adornes all the persons involved; yet, those who like us have a faith vision, cannot overlook the fact that there is a Christian note common to all.

The words that Pope Benedict XVI addressed to Her Majesty the Queen when he visited the UK in 2010, are still vibrant: “The Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years. Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christian alike”. In this Christian perspective, today Her Majesty is an inspiring figure for authentic Christian politicians whose contribution in the political arena could be decisive only if the intelligence of faith becomes intelligence of reality, the key to judgement and transformation.

Both the Santa Maria Convoy and the George Cross Award remind us of World War II and how the Maltese alongside with the British and others coming from the Commonwealth of Nations withstood the test. Indeed the George Cross testifies to our people’s courage during the dark days of the war. Yet, historians acknowledge that the people of Malta were able to resist because they were also sustained by faith. In point of fact, on the same day that the George Cross was awarded to Malta, the Governor of Malta, Sir William Dobbie, wrote that “all were determined that by God’s help, Malta will not weaken but will endure until victory is won” (15, April 1942).

During the war, the Maltese together with the Allied Forces stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and tear off our common humanity from many. In Pope Benedict’s words, « as we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29) » (Cfr. Benedict XVI, 16 Sept., 2010).

In view of the above, it is our duty to thank God for embellishing our nations with people of faith: they are like “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory” (Is., 61.3). Today we also pray for our present generation, assailed by atheistic philosophy and politics, to grow firm in Christian faith because society needs people with a solid moral foundation to “repair the ruined cities” (Is., 61.4). After the war all debris was cleared, but we still have ethical and moral devastation around! The victory has still to come.