Feast of Corpus Christi celebrated at Valletta Basilica, Malta

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Feast of Corpus Christi celebrated at Valletta Basilica, Malta
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The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, better known as Corpus Christi, was held on Thursday, June 15, 2017 at the Principal Matrix Parish Basilica of Our Lady of Safe Haven and St Dominic in Valletta, the capital of Malta.

The feast day was preceded by a tridum which began on Monday, June 12, 2017 during which the Blessed Sacrament was exposed all day for the veneration of the faithful. The adoration of the feast culminated in Solemn High Mass concelebrated by the Parish Priest and Prior, Fr Michael M. Camilleri O.P. and the Valletta Community who were joined by a delegation from the Carmelite Basilica and Priory which is one of several conventual churches within the bounds of the Dominican parish.

After Mass, the members of the Archconfraternity, the kon-fratelli in their white robe and red mozzetta, led the procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the main streets of Valletta. The Fraternity of the Valletta Dominican Laity, the King’s Own Band and the children who had received their First Holy Communion also participated in the solemn procession. When the procession returned to the Basilica there was the Benediction with the Holy Eucharist preceded by the signing of the antiphon O Salutaris Hostia and the Tantum Ergo of the Cappella Bugeja directed by the Maestro di Cappella, Fr Saviour Galea O.P.

A brief history of the archconfraternity

The feast of Corpus Christi has been organised uninterruptedly by the Archconfraternity of the Blessed Sacrament since it was established in the parish. The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament was one main of the tools of the Catholic Church at the time of the counter-reformation. Indeed, the first such confraternity was founded in the Dominican Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome in 1538 by the Prior of the convent P. Tommaso Stella O.P.[i] This Confraternity received Papal approval on November 30, 1539 by means of the Bull DOMINUS NOSTER JESUS CHRISTUS OF Pope Paul III[ii]. Since then, the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament has always had a special place in the life of the Church to the extent that Canon Law prescribes that the Ordinary of every diocese must see to it that a confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament must be established in every parish in the diocese[iii].

In Malta it was the Inquisitor and Apostolic Visitor Monsignor Pietro Paolo Duzina who took the initiative to set up the Confraternity in the parishes existing in Malta during his Visitation of 1574 – 1575[iv]. In Valletta this was the Parish of Our Lady of Safe Haven which had been erected just four years earlier by means of the Papal Bull EX DEBITO PASTORALIS OFFICII of the great Dominican Pope, St PIUS V. Here Dusina set up the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament on February 19, 1575[v].

Interestingly, the Archconfraternity of the Blessed Sacrament of Valletta is the only one in the world which is officially aggregated and affiliated to the Dominican Order. This was a result of a spontaneous request made to the Master General Fra Ludovico Teissling O.P. during his visit to the Maltese Province of St Pius V in August 1919. A certificate confirming this affiliation hangs over the cathedra in the Oratory of the Blessed Sacrament which is the operational base of the Confraternity[vi]. Throughout its 440 year history the Archconfraternity has assisted the dying by means of the Viaticum and since 1784 has organised a Last Supper display consisting of edible foods which are then donated to a needy institution. The Confraternity has accepted members without any distinction of class throughout its history but it also boasts the membership of 8 bishops of Malta and two Grand Masters of the Order of St John, Fra  Emanuel Pinto de Fonseca who was also the Rector of the Confraternity between 1757 and 1772 and Fra Ramon Perellos y Rocaful who, in 1705, donated 50 skudi for the exquisite solid silver and gold gilt monstrance which is still used in the Corpus Christi procession to this day.

Alfred Grixti, Lay Dominican, Parish Basilica of Of Lady of Safe Haven and St Dominic, Valletta, Malta.

 

 


[i] Mallia Philip O.P., The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament in the Parish of Our Lady of Safe Haven, Valletta 1575 – 1975,Veritas Press, Malta, 1975 p.4.,
[ii] Ibid., p.5.,
[iii] Ibid., p.8.,
[iv] Ibid.,pp. 10 – 15.,
[v] Ibid., pp. 15 – 21.,
[vi] Ibid., pp. 25 - 28.

 

(19 June 2017)