Malta to remove "embarrassing" monument before papal visit
Valletta, capital of Malta
YOU HAVE TO ASSUME that after months of stiff criticism for his handling of the out of control child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict is eager for a couple of days of R&R, preferably on a sunny Mediterranean island without any visible reminders of his priapic priesthood. And so, on his official visit to Malta this Saturday, the local authorities on this devoutly Catholic island are keen to remove all hints of the affair – even if that includes taking down one of the capital’s most stimulating monuments.
The Colonna Mediterranea
Yesterday, according to Agence France Presse and other media outlets, Mayor John Schembri of Luqa, a village outside the capital Valletta, has called for the removal of the “Colonna Mediterranea” (the Mediterranean Pillar), a ceramic sculpture by Maltese artist Paul Vella Critien. Critien erected the column in a traffic circle near the airport in 2006, where it cannot help but be viewed by thousands of Maltese and their visitors each day. The sculptor and painter, who has exhibited and constructed monuments around the world, calls his stylized obelisk “a modern three-dimensional representation of a symbol from ancient Egypt, as well as a work that celebrates the imagination and beauty of Mediterranean colors.” It “points to eternity.”
However, Mayor Schembri takes a shorter view, calling the ceramic shaft “obscene” and “embarrassing.” According to the Malta Independent, he has since called on his parliamentary secretary to remove “this so-called work of art which has been lumped upon the village of Luqa” as “a sign of respect for His Holiness the Pope.” As Schembri puts it:
On this issue, the Council has already consulted and has the total backing of the ecclesiastical authorities of the village, who have in fact already written to complain about the absurd welcome immediately awaiting the Pope's arrival at Luqa and have asked for a quick redress of the situation. There can be no doubt that, among the people of Luqa, there is a widespread cross-party consensus that the object placed at the entrance of Luqa is not the most fitting way in which to greet the Pope, especially by what is considered to be the most Catholic country in the world.
The Republic of Malta
The monument has been controversial ever since its erection, with the town council repeatedly stating that it “constitutes a vulgar insult as well as an arrogant imposition on the people of Luqa.” It has been the subject of frequent practical jokes, the most recent being an April Fool’s Day rumor that the monument was going to be removed because of the Pope’s upcoming visit. Apparently this joke got the ball rolling and may finally lead to action. Whether the obelisk will be taken down for good or merely sheathed remains uncertain.
This begs the question of whether the elimination of the manly monument will also eliminate the papal problem, at least as long as the Pontifex is on Maltese territory. It doesn’t seem likely: this tiny island nation is itself enduring a gruelling pedophile scandal involving at least forty-five Catholic priests. A Facebook group counting 1,000 members is protesting the Pope's visit. So while Benedict will not be exposed to the “Colonna Mediterranea” on Saturday, there will be plenty of protesters on hand to prick his conscience.
So I’m afraid Malta is out for papal R&R. May I suggest Antarctica?
The Times of Malta reported the following in its March 14 edition:
There have been no changes to the route the Pope will follow in Luqa, which will taking him past the phallic 'monument' near Lidl supermarket on Saturday afternoon.
"I have not been told of any changes, nor did we request any, we only asked for the monument to be removed," mayor John Schembri said.
People from Luqa this morning had suspected a change of route after workers turned up to tarmac some roads in the village.
But Mr Schembri said that resurfacing was requested by the council itself.
The Pope, he said, would be driven into Luqa soon after he arrived in Malta. He would be driven past the monument as he left the village and headed towards St Vincent de Paule home for the elderly.