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St George, the patron saint of Gozo

True to form, Anton F. Attard (April 21) harped once again on historical matters that had better be left to professionals. He is blissfully unaware of any "shred of proof regarding the patronage of St George" in Gozo.

In an abortive attempt to pick holes in a couple of statements made in our letter (April 16), Mr Attard stated that "there was no cult of St George among the Byzantines" at the time of their arrival in the Maltese islands in c. 533AD. This runs counter to history.

Does Mr Attard not know that Constantine the Great (272-337AD), after building the basilica of the depositio over the tomb of St George in Lydda, constructed another one in his honour in his newly-founded city, Constantinople?

Does he not know that Justinian, who ruled over the Byzantine empire between 527 and 565AD, not only erected a church and dedicated it to St George at Bizanes, in Lesser Armenia, but also sought his heavenly intercession, along with St Maurice and St Sebastian, for the outright victory of the Christian Byzantine army during the military campaigns, as attested in his consular diptychs of 521AD and as reported in the Laudes Regiæ: "Omnibus iudicibus et cuncto exercitui Christianorum vita et victoria. S. Maurici, S. Georgi, S. Sebastiane tu illos adiuva"?

Does he not know that the said Justinian offered St Germain (c. 496-576), bishop of Paris, the precious relic of the arm of St George, which was placed in St Vincent's church in Paris upon his return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem?

Does he not know that it was during Justinian's tenure that Malta and Gozo fell under Constantinople's sway?

One will have to conclude that either Mr Attard needs to brush up his elementary history or else he prefers to crusade against the primacy of St George's cult in Gozo's ecclesiastical history. The staunch devotion which the Byzantines reserved for St George, the megalo-martyr from the very beginning of the eastern Roman empire, is written in stone, which up till now neither natural nor man-made disasters have managed to eradicate.

A closing remark on St Ursula. In no way did we ever mull over the alleged non-existence of this British virgin martyr of the Church. Mr Attard should have been more upright by asserting that the statement "whatever one may or may not believe about her (St Ursula)" was made apropos her patronage in Gozo and not as otherwise stated.

It is not our intention to pit saints against each other. We venerate both St George and St Ursula as outstanding witnesses of Christ who uncompromisingly sealed their testimony with their blood. Nevertheless, when it comes to Gozo's history nobody ought to take umbrage at acknowledging that the patronage of St George antedates that of St Ursula by over 1,000 years. That's history!

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