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A great gift to God and to the people of Marsa

A Capuchin friar’s account (in Italian) of the church’s inauguration.A Capuchin friar’s account (in Italian) of the church’s inauguration.

“Dear Editor, in the past few days, I went to admire the new church being built in Marsa by the benefactor Mr Lorenzo Balbi.

“This church, which is now nearing completion, is dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. Also comprising a friary, this church has been given to the hard-working and kind Capuchin Friars.

“This is a spacious and truly beautiful church, one which will provide much spiritual good for the residents of Marsa. Such a colossal work is not only beautiful and one which does credit to its benefactor; it is more beautiful since many will benefit for their spiritual life.

“Although in Malta we have many churches, in Marsa there is the need for such a church for, as the residents themselves say, it is very difficult for them to participate in Mass, listen to the homily and receive the blessing. This is because to do so they would need to go up to the Ħamrun parish church of St Caetan – a church which is too far for them.

“On the other hand, as soon as this new church is ready and functioning, there will be an end to these inconveniences, even more so because the Capuchin Friars, to whom this church is being entrusted, are not given to luxury or worldly honour but have dedicated themselves to a continuous mission.”

The ringing of the church bells and the harmonious and sweet music joined with the joyful cheering of the people

These words were written 100 years ago in a local paper – Nisrani, Il Cnisia tas-SSma. Trinità, f’Is-Salib, March 23, 1912 – a few months before the blessing and opening of the new parish church dedicated to the Holy Trinity in Marsa.

A hundred years later, we are commemorating this wonderful event which had an incisive event that particularly affected the lives of those who grew up in this locality so near to the Grand Harbour.

The plans of the Holy Trinity church were made and carried out by architect G.D. Debono. The architectural style was considered new: it is not classic or Renaissance style with its mellowness. One may say that it bears the Liberty character.

The blessing ceremony of this church, according to the Roman rite, took place in the morning of April 19, 1913.

The church was blessed by the General Vicar of the Diocese of Malta, Mgr Luigi Attard, and the deputy of the Archbishop of Malta, Mgr Pietro Pace. This ceremony formed part of the festivities being held in Malta on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress of 1913.

The solemn inauguration of the parish church, entrusted to the Maltese Capuchin Friars, was held later on in the evening of that same day.

One of the friars wrote about the enthusiasm of 100 years ago: “The evening of that day remains memorable in the history of our Capuchin Maltese Province. It was natural that because of the sacred function celebrated that morning, many more people were gathered for the solemn inauguration that took place in the evening.

“Even before four o’clock in the afternoon the sacred place was filled with people; as the bridegroom awaiting his bride, so was the Shepherd of the Diocese eagerly waiting so that with his beloved presence he showed the faithful the place chosen by God in which He would abide among His people.

“A huge crowd, outside as well as inside the church, with joy announced the arrival of Mgr Pietro Pace. The ringing of the church bells and the harmonious and sweet music joined with the joyful cheering of the people.

“At the end of the inaugural speech, the Archbishop intoned the O Salutaris Hostia and the Te Deum. Finally, the Blessing with the Holy Eucharist was given, accompanied by the singing of solemn hymns, with the sacred music being directed by Prof. Antonio Nani.

“Afterwards, there was a huge festivity for which there were 2,000 people invited. During this event addresses to the founders were read. Among these speeches there was that of the Most Reverend Provincial, Fr Tommaso from Tarxien, Provincial of the Maltese Capuchin Friars Minors, and two other speeches from Mr Giuseppe Muscat Azzopardi, PL and Dr Gio. Felice Inglott, MD.

“A brass band accompanied the event with its joyous tunes till late evening. The people could also enjoy the lit-up, strikingly beautiful façade of the church.”

The need for the church in Marsa had been noted by many. This is evident in various articles appearing in local papers on this occasion.

For instance, this is how an article summarised the thought behind the inaugural speech by Mgr Gauci:“In a few words he had explained the purpose of the praiseworthy benefactors, Mr Lorenzo Balbi and his wife, Carmela, who had also been present for this function. They had done so much good through this colossal work of theirs.

“This good would flourish among the residents in the future. These had previously been deprived of the commodity of having a church in their locality. The said benefactors had conceded the church to the Capuchin Friars so that it would serve as a parish for this area.

“These friars would not cease in their spiritual work because just as great as was the love of these two benefactors who offered such a work for the benefit of the souls, no less was the wish of the friars to be able to attract as many souls as possible to the church. And, when the purpose of different people is one, the fruit would be good and would never cease to be” (Mistieden, Il Cnisia tas-SSma. Trinità, f’Is-Salib, May 3, 1913).

All the people from Marsa and all others who frequent this church can confirm these words even 100 years after they were written.

Without any doubt, the founders have erected a great and lasting memorial. The blessing of this great gift to God and the people will surely be everlasting.

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