Cardenal Mario Grech ©synod.va

The Dominicans of Vittoriosa have opened the Jubilee Year commemorating the 800th anniversary from the death of Our Holy Father St. Dominic with a week-long program. On 31st December the faithful joined the community for a mass starting at 11 o’clock at night to welcome the Jubilee Year. At midnight the bells tolled solemnly to announce the year of St. Dominic.

Then a week-long preparation was initiated on Saturday 2nd January, with the Solemn welcoming in the Church of the statue of St. Dominic. During the week on various days many communities from the surrounding villages and cities were invited to lead masses dedicated to special groups that frequent the Priory. On Tuesday the Archbishop of Tirana, H. G. Mons. George Frendo O.P. gave a conference through the internet, entitled Dominican Preaching: An Announcement of Hope. This conference is part of nine other talks, organised by the Committee for the Centenary of St. Dominic’s death of Vittoriosa, entitled, Aquae Sapientiae. This event is aimed at studying from various aspect the Dominican Charism today and going forward.

On Wednesday 6th January, the Dominican Community of Vittoriosa joined the rest of the Order in the official opening of the Jubilee, with a whole day of Eucharistic exposition. On Thursday 7th January, the Capuchin community of the neighbouring town of Kalkara were invited, as a sign of the long-established fraternity between the Dominicans and the Franciscan Order. On the following day, then, in the morning a book launch was carried out by the Committee for the 8th Centenary of St. Dominic’s entrance into heaven, in collaboration with St. Albert the Great College, which is owned and run by the Maltese Dominican Province. This book entitled, 800 Hundred Candles, was designed and illustrated by Mr. Carlo Fenech, translated into Maltese by Mrs. Daniela Schembri, and proofread by Mrs. Marylin Fenech, all members of staff of the said College. The book, launched by the Rector Fr. Aaron Zahra O.P., is designed to relate the life of St. Dominic to young children in an accessible and interactive way. Copies of the book may be acquired through www.opbirgu.org.

On Saturday, the Prior Fr. Aaron Zahra O.P. led a solemn translation of the relic of St. Dominic, followed by Solemn Vespers and a High Solemn Mass. At the end of the mass the sub-Prior, Fr. Tonio Mallia Milanes presented to the Church a ciborium cover made of silk-crochet-designs, having four Dominican symbols on each side.

The crowning event, however, of the celebrations for the opening of the Jubilee Year in Vittoriosa, was the coming of Cardinal Mario Grech to the Dominican Church of the Annunciation on Sunday 10th January 2021, to lead a Pontifical Solemn Mass. The Mass was attended by H. E. President George Vella, President of the Republic of Malta, Mr. Chief Justice Dr. Mark Chetcuti, and various other dignitaries. The Cardinal was welcomed by the Prior Fr. Aaron Zahra O.P., and the Major of Vittoriosa Mr. John Boxall, while the Prince of Wales Own Philharmonic Society played the Inno Pontificio at the arrival of the Cardinal. At the end of the Pontifical Mass, Cardinal Grech lit the Jubilee Candle. The candle is designed in the shape of the reliquary of St. Dominic, which is kept at the Monastery of Monte Mario in Rome, and which carries a relic of Our Holy Father’s cranium. This relic is to be brought to Malta for the first time at the end of August, as part of the festivities due to be held in Vittoriosa for the occasion of the Jubilee. The music for the Pontifical Mass was conducted by the Cappella Bugeja under the direction of Fr. Salvatore Galea O.P.

In the evening a Musical Program was held in the Church of the Annunciation by the Prince of Wales Own Philharmonic Society, during which, a new hymn to St. Dominic was executed for the first time. The hymn was composed by Fr. Alan Joseph Adami O.P. and versed by Mro. Raymond Schiberras.

The Dominicans of Vittoriosa are planning more events during the year to mark this special year for the Order. On 13th February, the remains of a Tertiary Dominican from Senglea, known for her mysticism, Teresa Parlar, will be brought and buried anew in the Church of the Annunciation. The climax of the celebrations this year are due to be reached between the 21st and 29th of August 2021, when the relic of St. Dominic will arrive in Malta for the very first time.