075_G19_InFocus_Malta

Global

In Focus Malta Union and the only Semitic language to be written in a Latin script. Many Maltese also speak Italian and other, mainly European, languages. A large majority of Maltese are practising Roman Catholics and the Constitution declares Catholicism to be the state religion, although provisions are made for religious freedom. It is believed that St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta in 60CE and brought Catholicism to the islands. St Paul’s Grotto is known to be the earliest place of worship for Christians in Malta – it is thought to be the place St Paul was imprisoned during his stay on the island. The catacombs that lie under Malta contain evidence of Christian practices and persecution during the Roman reign. There are more than 360 churches around the islands or, as the locals will tell you, ‘one for every day of the year’. Every Maltese town and village has a parish church, which acts as the village’s geographical centre. During the summer, the parishes celebrate their patron saints by holding a festa, or feast, which brings the entire village to life. These feasts are a treat for the senses – the devout participate in processions, where the statue of the patron saint is carried through the village streets, accompanied by a marching band; fireworks and British artist Dizzee Rascal performs at the Isle of MTV festival in 2014 petards are let off, creating dramatic shows of light in the night sky; and the streets are filled with vendors selling street foods and drinks, as well as toys and other knickknacks, while the street party rages on and on for an entire weekend. It is a fascinating mixture of the sacred and the profane – perhaps the grandest of which is Carnival, preceding Ash Wednesday and the sombre days of Lent. Carnival, usually held around February, sees the involvement of the whole island, with people, especially children, visiting the many festivities that take place over five days in Valletta, including performances, costume shows and processions of large, elaborate and very colourful floats made by Maltese craftspeople. www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 75 Gianfranco Stellini /© viewingmalta.com 


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