In the speech I made this year during the Sette Giugno commemoration, I referred to a thesis written by my good friend from Mosta Fr Tony Sciberras, who is a member of the Missionary Society of St Paul. His thesis included the biography of Mgr Joseph De Piro.
Reading his thesis, I was inclined to read the biography of Mgr De Piro as well, because I found out that Mgr De Piro not only was the founder of the Society of St Paul, which does missionary work abroad, but he was also a person who was in love with his country and with the poor, besides the missionary work.
Although Mgr De Piro came from a very noble and rich family, he preferred to be completely in love with those in need. Not only did he practice charity, but he made it his mission, notwithstanding the obstacles he had to face, even from the Maltese diocese and the Vatican.
In fact, it took him 20 years, precisely from 1905 to 1925, to persuade both the local Church and the Vatican to seal the society’s constitutions and be approved by the Church authorities.
From his biography, one can easily conclude that Mgr De Piro was quite a tough negotiator, notwithstanding his timid character. For example, when he opened the first Gozo orphanage for boys, he had to negotiate with Bishop Michael Gonzi, and when the latter wanted to impose several conditions on the land where the Gozo orphanage was to be built, Mgr De Piro refused to be under the directorship of the Gozo diocese until eventually Mgr Gonzi accepted his conditions.
On the other hand, he believed very much in dialogue. For Mgr De Piro, dialogue was always the means to discuss not only men’s projects, but God’s will too.
He also taught that through dialogue he could even encourage other priests to join him in his work.
I must say that I found his ability of persuasion quite fascinating, especially with regards to the Widows’ and Orphans’ Pensions Act, which in 1927 was the first social law to be passed by the Maltese government. This law was presented by Prime Minister Ugo Mifsud.
Mgr De Piro was a left-winger, because he always looked after those who were really in need
This is due to the fact that Mgr De Piro by that time had already applied the principles of this Act among the employees who worked for his Maltese projects, such as the orphanage in Ħamrun, among others.
For example, he paid one of the employees from his own pocket and was always careful to give extra pay to those who needed it, without letting the others know about this, because he was a conscientious and upright man.
However, in my opinion he was a left-winger, because he always looked after those who were really in need.
Mgr De Piro was also a Maltese patriot, with a deep love for his country. This is evident since he was of the opinion that the Maltese ought to be freed from the British Empire and that they should govern themselves. In fact, during the Sette Giugno riots in 1919, through his kind and calming interventions, Mgr De Piro managed to unite the Maltese people and persuade the British to open up for discussion about the changes that were necessary, which eventually were granted two years after with the Amery-Milner Constitution.
In my opinion, Mgr De Piro was a magnanimous person, that is, he was the type whose generosity of spirit was vast.
He was willing to forgive an evil deed, demonstrating a nobility and generosity of mind even with his enemies. He was always thinking about what other people needed or wanted, and was very careful not to upset anyone.
He was kind and considerate. Indeed, when he eventually managed to obtain land in Rabat through his own money, he immediately bequeathed everything to the society he had set up.
I must congratulate Fr Sciberras for giving us the opportunity to read the biography of such an important personality, who not only managed to do a lot for charity in Malta but also accomplished much for charity in all the five continents.
The missionary society Mgr De Piro founded is now working hard to faithfully continue to be creative with regards to the continuation of the charity that this Servant of God started.
Anġlu Farrugia is Speaker of the House of Representatives.
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