Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rome - Valetta - Rabat

May 1, 2011

Peace and Good,

Before anyone asks, no, I was not in Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Like many of you, I watches it on TV. I am in Malta now for a visitation of the province.

Malta is a small island (30 miles by 50 miles) to the south of Sicily. It is an independent republic. The population is 400,000, with over 1,000,000 people of Maltese descendance living throughout the world.

In ancient times, it was settled by people from Phoenicia (modern day Lebanon). The people still speak a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, although almost everyone also speaks either Italian or English or both.

From around 1500, it was taken care of by the Knights of St. John. This became a fortress against the Turks throughout the 1500's, and also against Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It was called an unsinkable aircraft carrier because there were seven air fields that would intercept ships bring supplies to Rommel in North Africa.

In 1565, Sulaiman the Magnificent of Turkey invaded Malta but could not conquer it. This is called the great seige. It was said afterward that whenever the island of Malta was referred to in the future, he would day that Malta doesn't exist anymore.

Valetta, the capital, was built by the knights on high ground. It is incredible how they built a small but very modern city from the sandstone quarried right on the spot. The co-cathedral of St. John in Valetta is one of the most magnificent baroque churches in the world. The museum also contains two paintings by the famous artist Carrevagio.

Now I am in the small city of Rabat (40,000) in the center of the island. Right alongside is a fortress and the Arab city of Mdina (notice how close the name is to the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia).

The good is very similar to that in Italy. There are a lot of tourists from England and Germany. They use the euro like they do in much of Europe.

I have finished a couple of books. The first is the Queen's Necklace by Alexandre Dumas. He is the author of the count of Monte Cristo. This is the complex story of the intrigues in the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. There was an episode of fraud and intrigue that became a scandal so serious that some say it was one of the reasons for the French Revolution.

The second book was the volume on Augustus Caesar by Gaius Seutonius. This is volume two of a long work on the emperors of Rome. I also finished volume three on the emperor Tiberius. Augustus is presented as a basically decent person, while Tiberias comes across as a miserable cus of a man who takes out his anger on the people of Rome. He even showed how much he disliked people by making sure that Caligula would succeed him.

God bless and
fr. Jude


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