Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A small Anglican Community in the small Roman Catholic Diocese of Gozo.

On Wednesday, April 14, 2010 a special service at St George’s Basilica in Gozo marked the fifth anniversary of the Dedication of the Gozitan Anglican community to Our Lady and St George. Our parish has always maintained close ties with our Christian brethren of different Confessions, becoming, in time, an ecumenical home at the centre of the diocese. Since 2005, the “Gozitan” Anglican community has St George’s as its official seat, although it has kept the Seminary chapel for its weekly services. Representative Tony Prescott shares the community’s experience so far.
Anglicans have been worshipping on Gozo for many years, initially, as a “house” Church, mainly led by laymen and women, although at one time a retired Anglican priest, Fr Victor Albutt, supported and worked with them. An important layman was Robert Stevenson, simply known as Steve, who nurtured the Anglicans on the island, as well as acting as a Eucharistic Assistant at the church of the Holy Trinity in Tas-Sliema as well as at the Anglican Pro-Cathedral of St Paul in Valletta. Steve was also able to arrange for Anglicans to use one of the chapels in the basilica in Xagħra for a time.
In 1991 more regular services were held for the first time in the chapel of the Sacred Heart Seminary in Victoria, thanks to the hospitality of the Rector. Initially, the Eucharist was celebrated monthly, when a priest from Malta would come across, as indeed they do today. As the congregation grew, services were increased to twice monthly; then in Lent 2003 services were held weekly, and as these proved well supported the pattern remained.
The congregation consists of a large number of regular worshippers – Anglicans and some non-conformists – who are joined by regular and occasional visitors. In addition to the weekly Wednesday Eucharist, a service of Compline (Night Prayer) is held on the first Sunday evening in the month at the chapel in the Jesuit Manresa Retreat House.
At the suggestion of the management of the Basilica's radio startion, Radju Leħen il-Belt Victoria the Anglican Church produced a weekly radio programme of news, views, hymns and sermons for three years, for the interest of local listeners. Anglicans are indebted to their Roman Catholic friends, and to the Gozo Bishop and clergy for their welcome and continued hospitality to their worship.
Up until 2005 worshippers had simply been the “Anglicans on Gozo”. In that year, their bishop, Dr Geoffrey Rowell, dedicated them to “Our Lady and Saint George”, giving them, for the first time, a real identity. This very special service for them was held at St George’s basilica, Victoria, thanks to the invitation of the then archpriest Mgr Dr Joseph Farrugia, with whom, together with his successor, they maintain excellent relations. Gozo now has equal standing with their other congregations: the Pro-Cathedral of St Paul, Valletta, and the Holy Trinity church in Tas-Sliema.
The basilica was well filled for last Wednesday’s festive service, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the dedication of the Anglican community here on Gozo to Our Lady and St George. The original dedication took place in the basilica in 2005, when Mgr Farrugia was archpriest. It was during his time as archpriest that the present close ties with Gozo Anglicans were developed.
The service was celebrated by the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, Rt Rev. David Hamid, who flew from London especially for this service, staying only briefly overnight. He was assisted by the Chancellor of the Cathedral of St Paul in Valletta, Canon Simon Godfrey, and the Chaplain Fr Jeff Williams. Archpriest Mgr Pawlu Cardona, who read the Gospel, and archpriest emeritus Mgr Dr Joseph Farrugia were part of the platform party.
Bishop Hamid gave out a remarkable sermon, praising the hospitality of the St George’s parish community, whose members always “open their doors” to their Anglican brethren resident on the small island. He mentioned also the great significance of St George, who is a beloved patron saint common to both English and Gozitans, thus uniting even more Anglicans and Catholics in this ecumenical experience.
Following the Mass all adjourned to the Aula Mgr Giuseppe Farrugia for a wine reception, following which some sixty guests moved to the Grand Hotel for a luncheon.
The Basilica of St George the Martyr, Rabat, Gozo

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