AN ESTIMATED 400,000 Maltese migrants live in Australia. The Archbishop of Malta, Joseph Mercieca, is out here visiting them.
A Catholic Weekly interviewer in Sydney says, picturesquely, that the Maltese people have fallen over themselves to ensure that "the congenial archbishop with the watermelon grin" enjoys his Australian stay.
They overflowed St Mary's Cathedral on a recent Sunday when Archbishop Mercieca celebrated Pontifical Mass for his Sydney community.
He wasn't surprised. "Maltese people are brought up to be hospitable above everything else", he said. "They are also encouraged to be industrious and honest. I am delighted to see they have retained all these qualities in Australia".
The Archbishop said Maltese people had told him they found Australians generous, helpful, kind and pleasant.
The Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Edward Clancy, had told him he was very happy with the Maltese who have come to Australia. Archbishop Mercieca thanked Archbishop Clancy for the benevolence and care with which he had helped Maltese in their new country.
Nineteen-eighty-three marked the centenary (1883-1983) of Maltese immigration to Australia. Archbishop Mercieca planned to be here then; he's making up for it now.
WITH Pope John Paul due in Canberra on November 24, interest in his six-and-a-half day visit is hotting up.
At a press conference in the crypt of St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, Archbishop Clancy (who is also president of the Australian Bishops' Conference) reminded us that the Pope would be making a visit to all Australians, even those not associated usually with the church—the Catholic Church or others.
The question of the visit's cost is becoming more and more a pre-occupation of the media. It looks like the bill for the church
will be between $4 and $5 million.
The Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Australia, Archbishop Franco Brambilla, took up the cost aspect when he was in Adelaide (South Australia) the other day. Compared to the many benefits to be received, the cost of the Papal visit was not important, he said.
He pointed out, too, that the tremendous television coverage the visit will have will "bring the eyes of the world" to Australia. In Africa (where he spent 11 years) and America, "people know Australia is a big, big continent and island 'down there' ", he said, "but they know no more than that".
In Sydney on November 26, a Papal Mass at Randwick Racecourse, the most spacious venue available, will be the centrepiece of Pope John Paul's visit to the State of New South Wales.
At the moment, there is no official estimate of the expected attendance (the secular media has put it as high as 250,000), but it is known that 800 priests and acolytes will distribute Holy Communion.
Likewise, a youth celebration the day before at the Sydney Cricket Ground is expected to attract 60,000 people. This will be the largest-ever gathering of youth held in Australia for a purpose of this kind.
Archbishop Clancy has summed it all up: "the Holy Father, like any father, likes to visit his family. He will guide them in many areas in these difficult days in which we live".
As I have mentioned before in this column, we have formed in Sydney a Friends of St Mary's Cathedral.
When I tell you that so many people turned up unexpectedly at an open day held on a recent Sunday to launch the Friends that the organisers ran out of afternoon tea, you will realise that we got off with a bang.
Actually, the organisers didn't run out of tea, they just took one look at the crowd, saw that they were hopelessly outnumbered and didn't serve any at all.