Saint Gregory and Our Lady of Mount Carmel came head to head over the weekend as festa enthusiasts took their rivalry to the Sliema streets with ego-boosting banners.
It started with the Balluta Mount Carmel enthusiasts putting up a banner taunting the Saint Gregory enthusiasts who had called them out for their lack of street decoration this year.
The Balluta enthusiasts' banner, put up close to their club on Carmel Street, depicting the statue of the Madonna, read: "Ours is the most beautiful statue. Yours is the ugliest in Malta."
The banner was later on moved up Carmel Street, towards Manuel Dimech street, and therefore closer to an (invisible) delineation mark between the two rival parishes, residents told Times of Malta.
In return, the San Girgor enthusiasts put up a banner which reads: “Ours is the most beautiful club. You can only dream of having one like ours.”
The two banners were pulled down by Monday morning, but a third banner surfaced on Sant’ Enriku Street, referring to the fact that the Balluta band club was invited to play in Athens, but the St Gregory's band has never played abroad.
It is not known how long this banner has been up.
Photos of the rival banners have gone viral, with several calling on the church authorities to intervene.
Tal-Karmnu committee reacts
The committee of the Socjeta’ Muzikali tal-Karmnu condemned offensive banners, comment and behaviour.
In a statement, the committee said it did not justify “any offensive or insulting behaviour, no matter who was behind it”.
'While condemning this behaviour, we also expect others to do the same, and, above all, stop insulting the statue of our parish’s patron with deplorable adjectives,' the committee said, adding that irresponsible behaviour was not justified by similar behaviour.
“This has been going on for years, and unfortunately has led to a reaction which we acknowledge was indecent and undesirable. The committee is sorry about this.”
The committee called for a Christian spirit throughout festa celebrations: personal insults and provocation were unwarranted, the added.
The committee also suggested that both parts meet to establish festa guidelines for future celebrations.
The Feast Commission of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Balluta, said its members were not involved in the incidents and it condemned what had taken place.
Alternattiva Demokratika former chairman Arnold Cassola questioned whether this was the "apex of the country’s spirituality", while in a post uploaded on Monday morning, Sliema councillor Pierre Portelli called on residents to remember that they were all "Sliema siblings".
Church condemns 'division'
The Church also reacted sharply, saying it was in no way involved with such banners.
It condemned any actions or situations that fostered division rather than unity.
"Village feasts should primarily serve for Catholics to venerate saints and to bring unity among the faithful," it told the Times of Malta.