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The State of the Diocese at Gozo Diocese

A nation is a collection of individuals and families who share something in common. The Catholic Church is the same. It is a collection of different people and families who hold a common faith in Jesus Christ.

The family, which is the Church, is scattered throughout the world, but is gathered into a number of local churches. Each local church is known as a diocese which Vatican Council II describes as “that portion of God’s people which is entrusted to a bishop to be shepherded by him with the co-operation of the priests”. Adhering thus to its pastor and gathered together by him in the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and the Eucharist, this portion constitutes a particular church in which the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative (Decree Christus Dominus, 11).

The diocese of Gozo is therefore a local church gathered round its bishop, His Lordship Monsignor Mario Grech. And through the bishop it is linked with all the other local churches or dioceses throughout the world. The purpose of the diocese, like that of the whole Church, is to bring all the people closer to Christ and to one another. This is the reason why a diocese exists. It attains the aim of its existence through evangelization. Since the diocese is a family of people, it means that all of us – lay people, priests, and bishop – have a responsibility to do what Our Lord has asked of us.

Going through this home-page, it immediately becomes obvious that the Church in Gozo, is a very flourishing institution. The people of Gozo, according to a very old tradition, were, together with the people of Malta, converted to Christianity soon after the shipwreck of Saint Paul on the island of Malta in the year AD 60. With several ups and downs, the people proceeded to profess the faith in Jesus Christ almost uninterruptedly throughout the centuries. The majority of the islanders are still practicing Catholics.

The main institutions of the diocese are at Rabat, the capital of the island. The Chancery Office, the Cathedral Church, and the Seminary are all situated in the city within a short distance of each other.

The Chancery, situated on Gozo’s main thoroughfare, triq ir-Repubblika, has two main sections: the administrative and the pastoral section. It also houses the Archivum Episcopale Gaudisiense, the Archives of the Diocese, with documentation starting in 1554.

The Cathedral of the diocese, dominating the ancient Citadel of Gozo, is dedicated to Santa Marija, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, the special patron of the diocese. The present church, at least the third on the spot, was consecrated on 11 October 1716. It has a college of canons, founded 6 June 1623, that congregate every morning on weekdays and mornings and afternoons on Sundays, to recite together the Office of Prayers.

The Sacred Heart Seminary, on Triq Enrico Mizzi, opened its doors on 4 November 1866, initially under Jesuit direction, but since 1909 it has been run by diocesan priests. The Seminary imparts lectures in Philosophy and Theology to prepare young men to the priesthood. By a decree of 13 April 1994, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, affiliated the Seminary to the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas, Rome, by which affiliation the Seminary was empowered to confer the Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology. Since its very beginning, it also ran a boarder and day-school for boys following secondary education. Nowadays it is only a day-school and it is considered to be the best by far on the island. Considering the ratio of the number of seminarians to the population of the island, the Seminary of Gozo can boast of the highest seminarian intake in the world.

There are fifteen parishes on Gozo and a church functioning as such on Comino. However, together with the parishes, there are another thirty five churches and chapels serving the communities living in their vicinity.

The diocese is blessed with a large number of personnel at the service of the people. At the moment it has a total of slightly over two hundred priests, over a quarter of whom are based abroad either engaged in pastoral work or plersuing higher studies.

There are also six male religious orders present on the island, the earliest to settle were the Augustinians in the fourteenth century, followed by the Franciscans Conventuals, the Franciscan Capuchins, the Franciscan Minors, the Jesuits, and the local Missionary Society of Saint Paul. There are also another seven female religious orders. The Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Malta were founded in Rabat-Gozo on 15 August 1880 and are at the moment present in the five continents of the world. Also founded in Rabat-Gozo on 6 October 1889, are the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena, also present in several countries abroad. There are besides the Daughters of Charity of Saint Jeanne Antide Thouret, the Augustinian Servants of Jesus and Mary, the Carmelite Missionaries of Saint Therese’s of the Child Jesus, and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. In 2011 the Poor Clares opened a home in Gozo. There are also five secular institutes.

Besides there are a number of lay organizations working for the education of children, youths, and adults. Foremost amongst them is the Maltese Society of Christian Doctrine, known as Museum, with male and female branches in almost every parish of the island and which, practically, prepares all the children of the island for First Holy Communion and Confirmation. There are besides the Catholic Action, the Legion of Mary, the Neocathecumenate, and several other parish-based groups working towards the evangelization of all sectors of the population.

This small diocese can also boast of several publications. A diocesan bi-monthly newspaper, Il Propugnatore, was first published in August 1885. It was followed by several others; the present, II-Ħajja f’Ghawdex, has been published uninterruptedly since June 1945. The Bullettin, a leaflet carrying the Sunday liturgy and other religious information, has been published weekly since 6 April 1969. There are also two in-house publications, Ad Parochos, for parish priests and Ad Clerum for priests, both issued since July 1974.

Going through this home-page, it is easy to think of the diocese as a large organization. It is right that the diocese should be organized well and God has certainly blessed us with many resources. But more than an organization, the diocese is the means to help the Christians of Gozo to grow in the love of God, to be of service to other people, and to become enthusiastic for Christ and his work.