In the face of adversity, the Church needs to be one step ahead of the rest of society, according to Cana Movement founder Mgr Charles Vella, who believes the Church is too often slow to react.

“The Church is one that runs after the fire engines, it hears the sirens and it goes running behind.

“That’s not the way I see things. I always wanted to be ahead of things and I think that it is what the Church needs to do today in light of all the things around it,” Mgr Vella said. He is back in Malta after spending 40 years in Milan.

The 87-year-old monsignor said he was happy to note that the Church in Malta had started to pick up on this and had slowly started to react in a timelier manner by pre-empting issues and dealing with them accordingly.

Especially with Archbishop Charles Scicluna at the helm. He is not afraid to speak out on the issues that need to be addressed even if these are not only strictly moral or spiritual but at times social, he said.

Recalling the time when as a young priest fresh from a stint in the US he decided to set up the Cana Movement, Mgr Vella said that at the time most people had never heard of marriage preparation courses and were shocked to learn of the topics that were going to be discussed.

The Church is one that runs after the fire engines, it hears the sirens and it goes running behind

The Cana Movement, a voluntary organisation within the Church of Malta, offers guidance to couples before they get married as well as counselling to couples and families facing problems.

“In 1955, I launched the Cana Movement at the Phoenicia Hotel. I didn’t want to launch it in a church, but in the ballroom where the young people used to hang out,” he said, admitting that he did face some backlash for this decision. Getting the Cana Movement off the ground proved to be quite difficult at the time, with many opposing his ideas. Yet the more difficulties he faced, the harder he worked to ensure his ideas materialised, Mgr Vella said.

“I was a young priest, coming from the US and so many people thought this was just some ridiculous idea I brought along with me. Parents did not want their daughters and sons to come to the conference because we spoke of marriage, sex and family planning.”

Mgr Vella now believes the movement must persevere in the same way he did over 50 years ago, since the family unit faced more challenges today than ever.

“With so many broken families, couples separating, we need the movement more than ever and it needs to be more present, more dynamic and more active.”

While looking forward to getting back to the movement, Mgr Vella has other plans in the pipeline, including issuing a revised edition of his book Ethics in the Service of the Sick. The new edition will feature his own experience as a patient and will highlight the importance of healthcare professionals having the right bedside manners.

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