St Publius of Malta (2)

Although nothing is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles that St Paul consecrated the island's Protos Publius, it has always been a strong tradition that this Protos or Prince became Malta's first bishop. We have always been thought that the Church believes in tradition when this is constant. Adelaide M. Zerafa should know that the Church of Malta never ever stated that the saint we venerate in Floriana was not Malta's first bishop.

Protos Publius was not of Roman lineage, as she wrote. If Ms Zerafa is well versed in Roman history she should know that the Romans always used to appoint local persons as governors of countries, regions or islands when those were not just simply conquered places. Malta was not conquered by the Romans as it was our forefathers who welcomed the Romans to our shores.

Our island enjoyed the status of a municipium with its own senators in the senate of Rome. Governors of conquered countries, regions or islands were not allowed to take their families with them or own property. They could only take their wives. Our Publius had both his family as stated in the Acts of the Apostles when St Paul healed his father, and property so he obviously was Maltese and not of Roman lineage. When Malta was a British colony we had British passports but definitely were not British but Maltese and this applies to Publius's Roman citizenship, which she called lineage.

Ms Zerafa gave the impression that St Bede (called Venerable because he was an abbot) confused things. St Bede was an eminent scholar and historian and not a man who got dates confused.

The confusion is in her mind when writing that St Bede confused St Publius the bishop and martyr of Athens with the St Publius we find in the Acts 28.7 (I am quoting her words) so at least she did recognise Floriana's patron as St Publius. All those who study history know that there have been many calendars so it is of no surprise that many people argue that Publius of Malta was not the Publius of Athens.

I end this by quoting what the late lamented Pope John Paul II said in St Peter's Basilica during a public audience two days after returning from his first visit to Malta: "He who in the Book of the Acts is qualified as the First in the Island, Publius, is venerated as the First Bishop of the Church in Malta. And so started an evangelical action whose fruit I myself confirm during my recent visit."

I was present in St Peter's Basilica when the Pope said those beautiful words. The Pope's speech was published in the Osservatore Romano, an authoritative Vatican daily on May 31, 1990.

How right was St Gorg Preca when he said that the Maltese did not love St Publius as they should have.

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