The Sunday Times interview with Mgr Joseph Farrugia on Basilica Museum
On Sunday, January 6, 2008, the popular English weekly The Sunday Times carried an interview that journalist Charles Spiteri made with Mgr Joseph Farrugia, archpriest emeritus, on the museum prospected by St George’s basilica and projected during his time as archpriest. The Malta Environment and Planning Authority has just given the green light to its construction. We hereby carry the interesting interview.
Sunday 6 January 2008
Plans for Victoria museum approved
The Malta Evironment and Planning Authority has just given the green light to the construction of a museum of archaeology and Christian art in Victoria. Charles Spiteri spoke to the man behind the project, Mgr Joseph Farrugia.
What can you tell me about the museum?
It coincides with the third stage in the renovation and amplification of the parish centre project for the Victoria parish of St George. The first phase was the construction of the Leħen il-Belt Victoria Media Centre which not only houses this popular community radio but also hosts social activities, organised both by the parish and by other entities such as the Alliance Française and the Malta Institute of Management.
The second phase, which is also concluded, consisted of the total overhaul of the sacristy to create new spaces for administrative and cultural activities, the construction of a parish house and the construction of a neo-Byzantine chapel that unites the house with the basilica. The third phase, that of the museum, is now for my successor to see through. I am of course ready to take it on as part of my collaboration with my parish community.
What stage has the museum project reached?
The idea of creating a basilica museum was first mooted in the 1960s and works of art and other artefacts began being collected for it. Detailed planning resumed in 1998. Bishop Nikol Cauchi not only approved the project but also supported the acquisition of new properties. Parish architect Salvu Micallef drew up the plans, mindful of government policy on town-centre renovation and construction. It was not easy but now we have the official permits needed to proceed. What is obviously still missing is the funding. But we still hope that part of the museum can be inaugurated next year.
Where do you plan to get the money from?
Coming by the money we shall need is indeed a challenge, but of the problems that I foresee it won’t necessarily be the most worrying. The Fondazzjoni Belt Victoria, an NGO that as archpriest I had set up in collaboration with culture-minded colleagues and friends, has begun identifying potential funding opportunities. These include corporate sponsorships but I am sure that prospective patrons will also show up with their contributions. My experience at St George’s is that once an idea has been shared, has taken hold, been honed, taken on and launched, the money will come. Besides its fairly strong cultural elite, Victoria has a well-groomed and extended core of parishioners (not limited to local residents).
What kind of museum are you envisaging?
There was a time when we were thinking of a museum that would display the items of archaeology and ecclesiastical art available within the context of a presentation of our ancient town as the microcosm of Mediterranean religious life that it has been.
This idea has not been abandoned but the FBV, in collaboration with St George’s Administrative Council, would also want the museum to be more than a mere display of the past.
Thus we have been speaking of a museum-cum-cultural centre, thus providing for on-going activity by young people, foreign visitors and other social groupings. We want this project to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible; solutions are under active consideration regarding accessibility problems (such as for the visually impaired).
What relevance would such a museum and cultural centre have for the Church?
The Catholic Church has always been an important agent of culture in the Maltese islands. We cannot forgo this role and pretend to still be relevant in society.
In one of his earliest addresses as bishop, Mario Grech spoke of Gozo as a hub of Christian culture. We could not agree more. Our experience has confirmed that culture can be a vehicle of catechesis, friendship, ecumenism, education, moral formation, fund-raising, recreation, identity and so on.
Nsgr Paul Cardona Pastor Msgr Joseph Farrugia Pastor Emeritus Mr. Antoine Vassallo ; Francesco Pio Attard Wonderful comittee: Fondazzjoni Belt Victoria. Congratulations for seeing the MUZEW Project closer to reality than ever before. Thank you all for your commitment and hard work overcoming difficult challenges. Be assured of my triple payment pledge when I return to Gozo, late may God bless you all . Dun Gorg
Two pictures of canvases that will be displayed in the museum