The organisers of Valletta’s Holy Week processions are calling on the authorities to issue assurances that there will be no repeat of the “shameful disruption” that took place during last week’s processions.
During the events, catering establishments placed tables along Merchants Street and played loud music, which the Holy Week organisers are saying is “in flagrant breach of the law”.
A spokesperson for the Archconfraternity of the Miraculous Crucifix and the Franciscan convent, which manages the Ta’ Giezu church, said: “Participants were not just obstructed by owners and patrons of catering establishments. Music was played outside the churches as people were praying and we were taunted. One man even thrust his hand into a lady’s face after she asked him to move aside to allow the procession to proceed through the crowded street.
“We cannot but condemn the blatant disregard of lawfully-obtained permits that were supposed to ensure the events could take place in a serene and fitting atmosphere. We would also like to ask the authorities why they were not present to uphold the law as they are with other public manifestations.”
The organisers sent an e-mail to both the police and the Lands Authority – responsible for issuing the permits – after the first breach of regulations occurred during the evening of Our Lady of Sorrows on 31st March.
The police responded on 2nd April – copying the Lands Authority into the correspondence – confirming that breaches had occurred and that no enforcement officers from the Authority had been on site.
However, despite calls from the police for the Lands Authority to make good for the situation, the breaches recurred on 6th April, Maundy Thursday – when the faithful traditionally make visits to seven churches and express devotion to the revered 17th century crucifix at Ta’ Giezu – and on Good Friday, 7th April, when once again enforcement officers were absent.
The spokesperson said: “The Holy Week processions are a long-standing cultural tradition in Malta, which attract scores of faithful and onlookers. Do the authorities, who are going to great lengths to promote religious tourism, really wish to sell our enviable heritage down the river for a few pieces of silver?
“We are not anti-business. We live alongside the hustle and bustle and noise every day. We are just appealing for common sense to prevail on three evenings of the year that have a special place in the hearts of many Maltese.”
Meanwhile, a petition has been started by the Belt Valletta Facebook Page, calling for action about certain establishments’ “disregard for the significance and solemnity of the religious rituals by continuing with their regular business activities, including playing entertainment music and setting up tables and chairs along the streets, showing a lack of sensitivity and reverence towards the occasion and the surrounding community.”
The petition, which currently has over 2,000 signatures, says that allowing such behaviour to continue “could have catastrophic consequences in various ways”.
It calls on authorities to take “urgent and tangible measures to draft, compose and enforce regulations and guidelines that prohibit eateries, entertainment spaces, and pubs from obstructing or showing disrespect towards religious processions during Valletta’s Holy Week rituals, and from creating disruptive noise near places of worship.
Valletta resident, artist and activist Pawlu Mizzi added:
“The religious culture and tradition of Valletta, including its places of worship, hold immense significance to our heritage and identity. These volunteer-driven events are a source of pride for the locals and are often featured in campaigns promoting Malta as a tourist destination, as visitors seek to experience the distinctive culture and long-standing traditions.
“Therefore, it is only natural that behavior which disregards and disrespects these traditions not only undermines the dedicated efforts of volunteers who work tirelessly to preserve and promote local customs, but also mocks the faith and beliefs of the local community and discourages their participation in these meaningful religious practices.”
Local Council’s response
Valletta Mayor Alfred Zammit, writing on Monday, admitted that certain establishments had broken the agreement in pace – to refrain from engaging in behaviour that could disrupt Holy Week activities – and similarly called on the Lands Authority (which issues the permits allowing restaurants and bars to encroach on public space) and the police to “take action against those who abuse”.
He said the Local Council “will see that this action is taken after the necessary information is gathered”.
He also thanked those establishments – which he stressed were the majority – which did comply and showed respect.
“In the coming days I will be meeting with all the entities concerned, afater which I will call an urgent meeting of the Local Council so that a decision can be taken about how things will be happening from now on, and what measures need to be taken.”
Kunsill Lokali tal-Belt Valletta / Facebook
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