Maltese Saints for the 5th May 2019

The statue of saint Publius in Floriana
Saint_Publius.JPG: Bonioderivative work: Rabanus Flavus [CC BY-SA 3.0 (

Saint Publius; patron of
Floriana, Malta, country of Malta

Saint Publius (Maltese: San Publju) is a first century Maltese Saint. He is venerated as the first Bishop of Malta. St. Publius is Malta‘s first acknowledged saint, the prince of the island (Maltese: il-prinċep tal-gżira). According to Maltese Pauline Mythology, Publius’ conversion led to Malta being the first Christian nation in the West. His feast day is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, of which traditions related and the day of celebration differ.[…]

Martyred bishop. The prefect of Malta, he was described in the Acts of the Apostles as “the chief man of the island” at the time when St. Paul, who was being taken to Rome, was shipwrecked on the isle. Paul cured Publius’ father of fever and dysentery, and Publius and Paul became good friends. According to tradition, Publius became the first bishop of Malta and also the first Saint of Malta, suffering martyrdom during the persecution of the Church under Emperor Hadrian.[…]

A portrait of Mgr Joseph De Piro, founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul
By Martinmssp – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Mons De PiroRabat, Malta Servant of God

Because of his precarious health, Joseph was granted permission to be ordained priest before he had actually finished his studies. He received Holy Orders in 1902, but when he returned to Rome to pursue his studies, his frail health forced him to stop, and instead he had to proceed to a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, to receive the necessary cure for his weak lungs.

His diary records that Fr Joseph lived through his Swiss sojourn in profound isolation, and not just in the physical sense. For a number of years, the young priest had been harbouring the dream of founding a congregation of missionaries, but all alone in that sanatorium enclosed by the Swiss Alps, he only had his dream to accompany him, and a dream, which in that particular moment, seemed so distant.

That same diary entry states that enveloped in that sense of utter isolation, Joseph felt that he could only find strength in prayer; and he added: “…and I prayed, and prayed, and prayed.”

Fr Joseph returned to Malta from Switzerland in 1904, and took up his first priestly duties in the village of Qrendi where his family had a sort of country mansion and which, incidentally, is still standing today. He served the people of Qrendi till 1907, when the then bishop Pace asked him to become the Director of Fra Diegu Institute in Hamrun.

Soon, his responsibilities as Director extended to four other institutes – St Joseph’s in Santa Venera, The Gesu Nazzarenu Home for girls in Zejtun, St Francis de Paule in B’Kara, and St Joseph’s in Ghajnsielem, Gozo. Bishop Pace asked him, too, to become the Dean of the Mdina Cathedral Metropolitan Chapter, with its added share of responsibilities. And, in addition, the next bishop, Monsignor Maurus Caruana O.S.B., designated him as his personal secretary.

Ten years later, the same archbishop asked him to add yet another portfolio, and the now Monsignor De Piro became the Rector of the major seminary, a post that entailed the direct responsibility for the formation of those preparing to become diocesan priests.

Moreover, as he was blessed with a richly endowed personality, and particularly blessed with a deep sense of discretion, he was nominated by his ecclesiastical authorities to sit on the Maltese National Assembly between 1918 and 1921, which was entrusted to draw up a constitution for Malta.

Mons De Piro played a major, if unobtrusive, role during the Sette Giugno riots in order to help pacify the tense situation that was created between the Maltese and the British authorities. During 1932 and 1933 he also represented the Maltese Church as one of its senators in the third Maltese Parliament. And, once again, in his characteristic discreet manner, he was likewise instrumental in bridging the rift that had developed between the Maltese Church and Lord Strickland. […]