Controversial scenes of a Gozitan parish priest being paraded through the streets in a child-drawn convertible luxury car were a “regional display of joy”, the Gozo Curia said.
Fr John Sultana, 47, raised eyebrows this week when amateur footage was uploaded online showing him standing up in a convertible Porsche Boxster.
The luxury car was being pulled through the streets of his Żebbuġ parish by an eager troupe of young schoolchildren as onlookers cheered and waved him along during his official instalment as the village’s archpriest.
A spokesman for the Gozo Curia told the Times of Malta the Church had no say over what festivities were held outside Church property during the instalment of a parish priest.
It was a tradition in certain Gozitan villages for the new parish priest to be paraded through the streets of the parish in a vehicle that was often pulled by the locality’s children, he said.
“This is not an isolated case and has been seen in other localities in Gozo,” he noted.
Archpriest urged to seek out the poor, as Jesus had done
When it was pointed out that the choice of the car was seen by some as being in bad taste, the spokesman said that though he would not have a gone for a luxury car himself, this was something the Żebbuġ community had decided on.
Fr Sultana has insisted it was the negative reaction on social media and not his choice of vehicle that was out of place.
“I’m sorry, but to me this simply isn’t an issue and certain comments being made are just not right,” he said when contacted yesterday.
He declined to comment on the matter any further, saying that “whichever way you comment, it is always taken out of context”.
The report of the event was widely shared across social media with many taking a dig at the new archpriest’s flamboyant transport choice.
One Facebook user wrote: “This is disturbing! Why on earth is this joker in a Porsche instead of humbly devoting himself to the community?”
Fr Sultana was appointed archpriest of Żebbuġ by Gozo Bishop Mario Grech after the resignation of Fr Reuben Micallef.
In his homily during Fr Sultana’s instalment, Mgr Grech had warned of the scourge of “clericalism” whereby priests felt superior to others, including to their congregation. He urged the new archpriest to seek out the poor, as Jesus had done, rather than favour the wealthy.
Fr Sultana, who was born in Xagħra, was ordained priest in June 1996 and started his pastoral work at the Santa Lucia parish in Rome. He studied at the Salesian Pontifical University.
He has been responsible for seeing to the pastoral needs of the community at St Anthony the Abbot church in Xagħra since 1998.
He was appointed press director of the Gozo diocese and appointed canon of the Marija Bambina Collegiate, at Xagħra, in 2000. Fr Sultana is a lecturer at the Gozo Minor Seminary.