It was on the 16th of November of the jubilee year 2000. Canon Nicholas Vella Apap was a familiar face at St George’s. Dun Nikol – as he was dearly known by one and all – was born in Victoria on the 29th of October 1930 in a house adjacent to the new parish centre that Archpriest Mgr. Emmanuel Mercieca had built just behind St George’s Basilica, a house that can still be accessed from the alley known as l-isqaq ta’ Lola tal-Ġelat, off Charity Street. He was so proud to have been born in the vicinity of the parish church he cherished so much and which he served practically throughout all his life.
Dun Nikol was a natural lover of books. Besides the vocation for the priesthood, Dun Nikol discovered another vocation when still young – the call to write. He loved writing; he wrote poems of a religious nature and he penned hundreds of articles of a historical nature. There is no doubt that he loved his native Gozo. He also loved the Church which he served as a diligent priest. Renowned for his preaching, Dun Nikol preached in many churches on both Malta and Gozo. He wrote articles which appeared in Leħen is-Sewwa, the Madonna ta’ Pinu magazine, the parish periodical Il-Belt Victoria, local newspapers and many souvenir programmes published for the titular feasts of our islands. He also wrote a book about the Sanctuary known as Il-Madonna Tal-Ħerba in Birbirkara, Malta and other book about the Virgin Mary in art and the liturgy entitled Il-Madonna fl-Istorja tal-Liturġija u fl-Arti (1990).
His love for the Virgin Mary, St Joseph and St George was reflected in his various writings. When a college of canons was erected in St George’s Basilica back in 1975, he was one of the first members. In the afternoons, in his free time, he could be seen showing tourists around St George’s Basilica and proudly describing the many paintings and other works of art within it to interested foreigners. Those who would like to know more about him can read Francesco Pio Attard’s detailed article ‘Il-Kanonku Dun Nikol Vella Apap u l-Festa tal-Immakulata Kunċizzjoni’ published in the annual publication for the feast of the Immaculate Conception published by the Franciscan Conventuals of Victoria (Festa 2010 Numru 29 pages to 36). The late Canon’s library in his residence in Charity Street was undoubtedly one of the most prolific in Gozo.
It is our duty to remember our deceased priests and pray for vocations on a daily basis while thanking the Lord for the many workers that He has called to work in his harvest over the years. As to Canon Nicholas Vella Apap and our deceased priests, may the Lord grant them eternal rest!