Today, Monday 10 September 1990, in the Hall of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Diocese of Gozo, a sitting was held about the Cause mentioned above, in the presence of the Bishop’s Delegate, Fr. Mario Grech, Judicial Vicar, Fr. Paul Gatt O.P., Promotor Justitiae, and the undersigned notary.
The witness, Michael Ciangura, was admitted to give evidence.
I, Michael Ciangura, son of the late Guzepp and Angela née Falzon, was born in Rabat, Malta, on the 25th March, 1918. I am married and live at 39, Fuq il-Ghajn Street, Ghajnsielem. I am retired. I am a practicing Catholic.
I swear to tell the truth.
I confirm the information about the Servant of God (S.G) Mons. Guzeppi De Piro, Founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul in Malta, that I had presented to the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Malta on the 18th July, 1987.
1. You have come here to give evidence in this Cause of Canonization of the Servant of God Mons. Guzeppi De Piro. Can you say what made you come to give evidence? Was there perhaps anyone who told you what evidence to give? When was it that you got to know the S. G., and how long did your contact with him last?
I heard that this process about the S.G., is being held and I offered to give my evidence. I met Mons. De Piro in 1926, when he was Director of St. Joseph’s Institute, Ghajnsielem, and kept contact with him until his death on the 17th September, 1933.
2. “I was a child at the Institute of Ghajnsielem ... Mons. De Piro was used to go once a month.”
What was the exact name of the Institute? What kind of children did it receive: orphans, poor children, girls, and boys? What ages? When was it opened? At that time, were there other Institutes for children in Gozo? What was your age when you were admitted to the Institute? What exactly was the connection between the S.G., and the Institute? Was he perhaps its Director? If yes, do you know how he became director and why was he the one to be chosen? Do you know if he also had a share in the opening of the Institute? In case, can you give details about this share? As Director, what was the work of the S.G? Perhaps to see the registers? Or was he also responsible for the food and clothes of the children and for the maintenance of the place?
The Institute of St. Joseph used to receive poor orphan boys of ages between eight and twenty years. The greatest part were children coming from Gozitan families. However, there were also some individuals from Malta. As far as I know this was the first institute for boys in Gozo. I was about eight when I entered the Institute. The S.G., was the Founder and Director of this Institute. I do not know how to answer the rest.
3. “… he was used to go about once a month ... every time ... he stayed at times for two days and sometimes also for three days” Were there occasions when he came more often or less often? Did he stay for a longer or shorter period? Always the same, summer or winter? Where did he come from? If from Malta, what means of transport were there at that time? Were they efficient and reliable? Do you think that to come to Gozo he had to make some particular sacrifices, besides the journey? Perhaps he had to leave some work behind? In fact, do you know if he had other kinds of work in Malta? In case, do you know what they were? Perhaps work in other Institutes of children? In case, do you know which they were? Some other work for the Diocese, or perhaps also some work in connection with the Government?
Usually the S.G., came from Malta once a month, but there were occasions when he came more often. He would stay with us for about three days. Mons. De Piro came both in summer and in winter. At that time the means of transport were limited, and it was a tough crossing from Malta to Gozo especially in the winter months, because of bad weather. To come to the Institute, Mons. De Piro had to leave diverse tasks in Malta. I remember that he had in his care other institutes and the responsibility of the Society he was founding. At that time he was Dean of the Cathedral Chapter and at the same time he was also a member of the Senate.
4. “When I entered, the children had already grown in number, so much so that my number was 17 and there were others after me.” Who was responsible for the admittance of children to the Institute? If it was the S.G., was he the only one responsible, or did he need the approval of someone above him? In case, of whom? What were the criteria used to admit children to the Institute? Did the S.G., observe these criteria, or did he make his own choice? Do you remember if, at the time of the S.G., anyone ever complained, for example, that some were admitted before others? In your case, how long did you wait to be admitted to the Institute? Before you were admitted did you have a meeting with the S.G? If yes, what do you remember of such a meeting? Do you know how many children could be admitted to the Institute? It the number was limited, who had fixed this number and for what reason? Space, finances, personnel?
In my time, there were about twenty-three boys in the Institute. As far as I know it was Fr. Mikiel who was responsible for the admittance of children. I do not have an answer to the rest of the questions.
5. Do you know something about the family of the S.G? Do you know to what class of Society this family belonged? If it belonged to the noble class, do you know what this nobility consisted in? Only title? Or was there connected with it some wealth in the form of property, lands, power, etc? Do you know if the S.G., had his own share of this wealth? If yes, do you know how he used it? Did you ever hear anyone mention his mother, father, siblings and the relations between them? Can you give some details? You also refer to the S.G., as Monsignor. Was this just a title, or because he was a regular Canon of the Cathedral? Do you know how the S.G., became a Monsignor? Perhaps in recognition of some particular work he had accomplished? Perhaps someone used his influence in his favor in order to become a Monsignor? In case, who? Perhaps he himself? Do you know if as a Monsignor he had some particular duties to perform? Do you know how he performed these duties?
I remember that some years after the death of Mons. De Piro, Fr. Guzepp Galea Rapa, a diocesan priest, took me to visit the De Piro Family in Mdina. I remained impressed that it was a rich house. I do not remember that the Monsignor ever spoke about his family; he was not the type to blow his trumpet. I do not know how to answer the rest.
6. If the S.G., came to the Institute once a month, it means that in the meantime you were in the care of someone else. Who was he exactly? You mention “… members of a society he founded.” Who were these members? Did you consider them to be dedicated to you? All of them? Did you consider them well prepared to take care of you? If yes, can you show this by mentioning some facts?
In the absence of Mons. De Piro, we were in the care of Fr. Mikiel Callus, Bro. Venanz Galea, Fr. Karm Azzopardi and Bro. Ruzar Buhagiar; the last two came with us when Fr. Mikiel and Bro. Venanz went back to Malta. In general Mons. De Piro left two with us: a priest who could celebrate Mass, and a Brother. In my opinion they were dedicated to their work, and I noticed that they were well prepared. Bro. Ruzar even taught us music for the band.
7. “He was a serious person. However, each time he used to come (to the Institute) he brought sweets with him and he himself used to distribute them among the children. Because of this we children were attracted to him.” What exactly do you mean by “serious person”? Perhaps that you never saw him smiling, always irritable, not mixing with people? He made you feel shy? Was he also serious when distributing the sweets? Why do you seem to insist that “… he himself …” distributed the sweets to the children?
We did not know when the S.G., would come to the Institute; I do not know if he informed the members of the Society about this, but we were never informed about his arrival. When I said that Mons. De Piro “… was a serious person” I meant that he was a dedicated priest, in the sense that he did everything in the proper time, and punctiliously. When he distributed sweets to us, he liked to joke with us. I do not know why he wanted to distribute the sweets personally.
8. “I used to serve him at Mass…” At the Institute, did you have daily Mass and Communion? Besides the Mass, what other religious activities did you have? Perhaps Benediction, the Rosary, the Angelus, prayers for the dying, for the dead? Do you know if money was offered so that the children of the Institute might pray (especially for the dead)? If yes, do you know if the S.G., had a part in the introduction of such prayers in the Institute? Besides these spiritual activities, did you have Catechism lessons at the Institute? How often? For how long? By whom were they given? What form did they take?
In the morning we had Mass. Then at 11.30 a.m. the prayer of the “Happy Death”, and in the evening the Rosary and Eucharistic Benediction. This was the program of our prayers at the Institute. Divers people were enrolled in the “Happy Death”. When they enrolled they used to make an offering as a help to the Institute. I have no answer to the rest.
9. Again, regarding the Masses. Were you always the one to serve his Mass? If yes, why? Did he say Mass in private or perhaps for you children? If in private, why didn’t he say Mass for you? Or perhaps at times in private and at times for you? Did you ever notice something in particular about the way he said Mass? Perhaps with concentration and devotion, each word clearly uttered, or distracted and fidgety, etc.? Did he always say Mass in the same way, whether in private or in public? Besides the Mass, did he show some particular devotion to the Eucharist? In what way? Did he try to instill this devotion in you? How? Perhaps he talked to you about it, introduced some kind of adoration? Did the S.G., use to hear your confessions? If yes, how did you find him? Very strict and instilling fear, or kindly and making light of everything? Did he make you exhortations whilst confessing? Did you children ever comment among yourselves about the way he said Mass and heard confessions? Did you notice if he was different from other priests regarding these things? Did he preach to you? Did you understand him? What was his favorite subject? Do you know if in Gozo he went to say Mass, confess and preach in other places? In case, do you remember where?
When he was in Gozo, Mons. De Piro at times said Mass for us children and at times in private. I cannot say why he said Mass in private. Since we had two Masses when he was at the Institute I do not remember if the Monsignor was present for the other Mass. I do not think that he took part in the prayers we said together. Sometimes I served him at Mass and I noticed that he said Mass with diligence, without haste, and this applies to when he said Mass in public and when he was alone. I noticed a difference between the way the S.G., said Mass and the way some other priests said Mass. I do not remember that he heard confessions. If I confessed to Mons. De Piro, I would today consider myself very fortunate to have confessed to a saintly priest. As a rule, the members of the Society asked another priest to come to confess us.
As regards the preaching of the Monsignor, I remember that once, when Bro. Guzepp left for the mission in Abyssinia, the S.G., preached about the mission and gave us holy pictures of St. Francis Xavier.
10. You say that “... and in summer I used to go with him to the Xatt l-Ahmar (Red Beach).” Was this place far from the Institute, or near? Why did he go there? Perhaps simply to swim or to gather sea anemones as he did once when you were with him? Why do you think he preferred this place? Perhaps because it was near? Perhaps because many people went there, or because few people went there? What impression of himself did the S.G., give you, that of a person who loved to mix with people or to shun them? “... I used to go with him.” Were you the only one to go with him? If yes, didn’t this make the other children complain? Were there occasions when all of you children of the Institute went? In case, on what occasions? Did he go to the Xatt l-Ahmar every time he came to Gozo? Everyday? If yes, do you mean that he wanted to rest? In fact, how long did he stay at Xatt l-Ahmar? At the Institute, did you have time for rest during the day? At what time? Did you consider it to be enough? What kind of recreation did you have? Were there occasions when you went out for long walks? Did the S.G., happen to be with you on these occasions?
At times, in the summer, the S.G., loved to go to the Xatt l-Ahmar, a beach near the Institute. He loved this place not only because it was near, but also because it was out of the way; there were no other people swimming there. I do not know that he went alone, though several times he took with him some boy or group. In fact, I often went with him. Mons. De Piro went there to swim. We did not stay long. With regard to whether the S.G., loved to mix with people, I can only say that he was always happy to be with us children and he loved our company. But I do not know anything about contacts he might have had with adults.
The daily program at the Institute consisted in our learning some trade in the morning. After lunch we had some time for recreation and we played together in the yard of the home. In the afternoon we again had practice in the trades. At times we went out for a walk, but I do not remember if the Servant of God came with us. Nor do I remember if he was with us at other times of recreation.
11. “... and told me that we should pick sea anemones.” Did the S.G., talk to you about the beauty of nature, the sea, the fish, the sun, the trees? In what way did he talk to you? Did he ever lead you to see the beauty of God in them?
“... we now cook them and then you will see what goodness. Did the S.G., give the impression that he was a gourmand, or was he the type who did not bother much about food? Did you ever hear anyone in the Institute commenting on this?
“... now we will cook them...” Do you mean that he himself cooked the sea anemones or that he asked the cook? If he himself cooked them, didn’t it seem strange to you that a monsignor should cook his meal? Did he often cook sea anemones, or was it only on one occasion? Was the food (like sea anemones) he brought only for him, or did he share it with all the others? Can you regard the S.G., as one who was ready to do all kinds of jobs? In general did he encourage you to do all kinds of services like cooking, cleaning of the house, care of the garden/fields, animals, etc? If yes, did he explain why he wanted you to do all kinds of jobs? What would his explanation be?
I do not remember that the S.G., spoke to us about the beauty of nature with reference to God. I had the impression that the S.G., loved food, but I do not think that he exaggerated. He liked to eat green beans. I do not think that it was he who cooked the sea anemones; in the home we had a cook who was responsible for the cooking.
As regards the rest, I say that the S.G., did not interfere in the things mentioned; it was more probable that he gave a free hand to those responsible for the running of the home.
12. “Together with the tailor there were also a carpenter and a shoe maker to teach the children.” Do you know if these trades in the Institute were started on the initiative of the S.G., or if someone else suggested them or pressed him to introduced them? Why were there three trades and not more? It seems that some instructors came to teach them. Were they good instructors? In fact, was that which you learnt about the trade enough to help you work and earn a living when you left the Institute? Did you ever hear the instructors talk with someone about the conditions of their work? Did you speak to them about this? If yes, did they seem satisfied, or did they perhaps complain that they were not appreciated enough? In case, did they attribute this to the S.G? Do you know if there ever were problems in the relations between the Servant of God and these instructors? In case, about what? What was the attitude of the S.G? How do you know this? Did you ever hear the S.G., talk about the workers? If yes, what was the idea he seemed to have of the worker? As someone who was there simply to work, and at the pleasure of the employer, or perhaps that he also had his rights?
I cannot say how training in the trades started in the Institute, but it seems to me that they did not exist from the founding of the Institute. I think that the three trades you mention were the most popular trades at that time; the fact that children after leaving the Institute, were successful in their trades indicates that the instructors were efficient. The instructors received some payments from the Institute for the services they rendered. From what I could observe, I can say that the instructors were happy; I do not know that they ever had problems with the members of the Society. There were some of my mates who, during their stay at the Institute, learnt a trade well and when they left they earned a living from their trade.
13. “De Piro insisted very much on the teaching of trades at the Institute.” Previously you also said that “... when he saw that I wanted to learn, he even took me to the Institute of St. Joseph in Malta.” Did he do this only to you, or was there someone else whom he treated like you? If yes, were there many of these cases? Do you think that he offered this opportunity to everyone who showed interest? Or did you at times hear someone complain that one wished to go to Malta but was refused? Did the S.G., show his interest in the trades only in this way, or in other ways as well, for example, by providing better equipment in the workshops, increasing the number of workshops and visiting you while you were working? Did he speak to you about the meaning of work in the life of man? When you compare the training you received at the Institute with that received by other youths outside, do you think it was the same or better?
I believe I was the only boy invited by Mons. De Piro to go to Malta and continue to learn the trade there in the Institute of St. Joseph, Hamrun. It could be that the Monsignor made me this invitation so that I could learn the trade better. However, it was possible that he took me to Malta on my mother’s suggestion who lived in Malta and so, if I was in Hamrun, she would find it easier to come to see me, her son.
I remained in this Institute for about one year. Here I saw the S.G., more often and I think he had his office in this home.
I am not in a position to answer the other questions.
14. You speak about the schooling in the Institute. Why was teaching done in the Institute itself? Who was “Fr. Mikiel” whom you say taught you during the day? Did you think he had enough preparation to teach you? You also mention Guzeppi Sciortino. Who was he, and how able was he to teach? When you left the Institute do you think that you were the same as other children as regards schooling? At the Institute you learnt English, Maltese and Arithmetic. Why didn’t you learn other subjects like, for example, Italian? Besides finding teachers, did the S.G., show interest in the school in other ways, for example, by visiting you in the classes, some prize day, etc? Was there a balance between the teaching of academic subjects and of trades? Besides academic education, did the S.G., think of formation for life: manners with people, development of certain natural virtues like respect for others, honesty, etc? In what way did he do this?
At the Institute we learnt both the trade and academic subjects. I want to observe that more importance was given to the trades than to academic subjects. However, I and my mates of the Institute learnt to read and write Maltese. Lessons were held late in the afternoon. Guzeppi Sciortino who came to teach us, was a teacher in the Government school. His relatives were benefactors of our home and I believe that Guzeppi had volunteered for this service. Compared with other children who attended the state school, I feel we learned enough. In fact I am sure that some of my contemporaries cannot read or write. I do not know why we did not attend the same school as other boys.
Once a year at the Institute we had a prize-giving day. Those who did well at school received books and presents. On this occasion we read some poems. I do not remember that De Piro was present for this feast.
15. “We were all right as regards food, clothes, etc.” Do you say this when you compare your life in the Institute with that of children outside? If yes, can you possibly say something about how children outside normally lived as regards food and clothes? Do you remember what your food consisted of? Was there a difference between the morning and the evening, or weekdays and Sundays? Do you remember if the S.G., had his meals with you or not when he was in Gozo, and if he ate the same food as you, or if he was offered different dishes? As regards clothes, you say that, “… he also introduced our uniform.” What did this consist in? Was this worn in the Institute or outside? What was the idea of the uniform? Were you pleased with it? Besides the uniform did you have enough of other clothes? Did you have shoes or sandals? Everyone? Were illnesses common among you? In case, what type of illnesses? What caused them? Was it possible for you to keep clean? Did the S.G., see that you were provided with what was necessary for this?
I remember that during my stay at the Institute food was varied and abundant. The people were generous with us and the management of the home could provide us with this food. I remember that on Sundays we had meat. Fish was not something rare. Who knows how many times I went to the port waiting for the fishermen to return with their catch and they gave us fish for the Institute. I do not know that anyone of us ever went to bed hungry. When Mons. De Piro came to the Institute he had his meals in a separate room with the other members of the Society. I do not know if they had a different treatment from us. Although when one joined the Institute as an intern he was accepted with the only clothes he was wearing, no one of the children lacked suitable clothes. The Superior of the Home provided us with clean and smart clothes. When we went out we wore a khaki uniform made at the Institute. The uniform also included a cap. We were happy with this uniform. When people saw us they soon concluded that we were children of St. Joseph’s. As footwear we had shoes or slippers; I do not remember that there were cases of barefooted children, not even when we were indoors. In comparison with other children we lacked nothing. We had all the facilities to keep ourselves clean.
16. “Also when we went to the villages for charity...” What was this charity? Perhaps you went to beg for your livelihood? If yes, do you mean that your livelihood depended on this charity? How often did you go? Everyone? Were some annoyed? Did the S.G., ever talk to you about this? Did he ever come with you when begging alms? If not, did he ever beg for you somewhere else? If yes, where? Often? How do you know this?
“... times were different from today for everyone.” Do you mean by this that at that time it was common for people to go out to beg alms? Perhaps because there was much poverty and dearth?
Life at the Institute depended on charity. We were organized in such a way that once a month a door-to-door collection was made in each parish. We were sent in twos and an adult accompanied us; if I remember correctly, it was the gardener of the Institute, who lived in Ghajnsielem.
Some time or other all the children had their share in the collections. We stayed out for a whole day. We had a cart and a donkey and went to some village. I remember that the collection was varied: cheese, fruit, eggs, and money of course. It was a time of dearth and we were not the only beggars; it was normal to knock on the door and beg for something to eat. I do not remember that on some occasion Mons. De Piro did not accompany us in our collections; nor did I ever hear anyone say that the S.G., went out begging.
17. “... before 1928 he started the Band of St. Joseph.” “... he had been thinking and preparing for a long time.” What exactly do you mean by the words “…he started…”? Perhaps that this was his own initiative and that he made all preparations for it? What do you mean by “he had been thinking and preparing far a long time”? “When he visited the Institute he loved to take an instrument each time.” Do you mean that he himself carried the instruments? If yes, from where? Do you know where he acquired them from, and if he paid for them? In case, do you know where he got the money from? You mention the bandmaster of St. Joseph’s Band, of Malta. Do you know what was his name? Do you know if the S.G., played a part in the musical education of this bandmaster? At that time, were there other bands in Gozo? Did everyone join the band, or only those who wanted to? Did the S.G., encourage you to join it? Perhaps the bandsmen were given some pocket money? For what reason do you think the S.G., wanted to form a band? Did you go to play away from the Institute? Where? Often? Were you paid?
It was Mons. De Piro who took the initiative to form the Band. At that time there were only two bands in Gozo, those of Rabat. I cannot say exactly what could have led the S.G., to take this initiative;
perhaps because he wanted us to develop our talents; however, it is a fact that the same band was a means
of a little income for the home, because I remember that when we performed some services we received some payment. The teaching of the instruments was in the hands of Bro. Ruzar; Mons De Piro, little by little, acquired the instruments for us. I remember that he bought new ones and they were made in France. When the S.G., came to Gozo he brought some instrument with him.
Not all the boys learnt to play; but those who had the inclination were given all the help possible. When the band was formed, Mro. Anton Muscat Azzopardi, who was the bandmaster of the Band of the Hamrun Institute, was appointed its bandmaster. Mons. De Piro was with us when we took the first official photograph as a band.
18. “... especially in the fair which they organized to acquire help for the Institute.” Did the S.G., have a share in the organization of this fair? If yes, what did this share consist in? Would he be present during the fair? Did the S.G., show much enthusiasm, and did he urge you to do your very best to collect money? Or do you think that, besides the collection of money, the S.G., considered other aspects of the fair: that people got to know the Institute better, the children would meet other people, etc.? How do you know this?
The annual fair of the Institute, which was held on the first Sunday after Ascension, was a big feast not only for us in the Institute but also in the calendar of celebrations in Gozo. Many people attended for this fair. The people donated to us all the articles we used in the fair. The members of the Society did their very best to make the fair a success. I remember that the first time our band took part before the public was precisely at one of these fairs and on that occasion the S.G., was present.
19. “I know that De Piro wanted to build a new Institute, and the government gave him a piece of land near the old Institute. This land was in the hands of a farmer who did not want to give up the land ... there were many protests about this.” How do you know that the S.G., wanted to build a new institute? Was this to replace the old one, or was it his intention to add to it? In fact, do you think that a new place was needed? If yes, for what reason: space, many children wanted to be admitted, the place was very old and perhaps dangerous? Did the fact that the Government gave him a piece of land indicate that the S.G., enjoyed the respect of the Government? Can you give details about this point? Do you know if the S.G., had some contacts with some particular members of the Government?
“... there were many protests ...” Who made these protests? The S.G? If yes, do you mean that the S.G., protested against the farmer in your presence? If yes, what did he say? Or perhaps protests were made by the farmer? If yes, did he talk against the S.G? If yes, did you get to know what he said? Or was it the people who protested? In case, against whom? How did this incident end? What was the last position taken by the S.G., regarding this? Perhaps he agreed to leave everything as before? Perhaps he went on trying? Perhaps he preferred to keep peace with the farmer?
Regarding this I want to explain that I do not know exactly with what aim the S.G., wanted to acquire a piece of land from the Government. However, I am sure that he asked for a piece of land, which was in front of the Institute, and there was some trouble with the farmer who cultivated the field. The latter grumbled a lot against De Piro. I do not know what was the attitude of the Servant of God. However, it is a fact that the Institute did not acquire the plot.
20. In your information you say that the S.G., at times even tried to invite you, inmates of the Institute, to enter the “Society he had founded.” And you mention yourself. Can you say more clearly, what society was this? Perhaps made up of religious fathers and brothers? If yes, did they make some vows and live together? Do you know when, where and how it started? Do you know what was the aim/s of this Society? Do you know if they started to be achieved, and how? Do you remember if many were those who joined the Society? Do you know if all or many of them remained? You say that it “appeared that De Piro was trying to make us join the Society.” Do you mean that the S.G., made efforts for vocations? If yes, where and in what way?
“In fact he had suggested to me...” How did he make the suggestion? Do you know what picture he gave you of life in the Society? When you joined as an aspirant did you find what he had told you? When he made the suggestion, did he allow you freedom to refuse there and then? “... I went to the Oratory of B’Kara with the other aspirants.” What exactly were these aspirants? How many were they? Did they attend some school? In case, where? Besides the school, what else was there in the daily program? How long did the aspirants remain? What followed the “aspirandat”? During the two months when you were aspirant, do you remember if the S.G., ever came to see you? In case, what form did this visit by the S.G., take?
You state that in B’Kara there was an “Oratory”. What exactly was this? What were its connections with the Society? Did the aspirants perform some service there? In case, what was it? “After this time, though, I realized that, that was not my life ...” Did you ever discuss this fact with the S.G? If yes, do you remember how he dealt with you, if he immediately consented to your leaving the Society, or if he tried to keep you? You say that after you left, the S.G., still helped you. In what way did he help you? For how long did he give you this help?
I obtained the information about the Society that Mons. De Piro was founding from the members of the same Society. However, I never heard the S.G., talk about the Society. In my opinion, this Society was orientated towards the missions and this ideal was already beginning to be accomplished, so much so that the first missionary of the Society, Bro. Guzepp Caruana, left for Abyssinia in my time. It was a numerous Society and its members were either priests or brothers. However, at that time there were a number of members who left the Society.
The S.G., was keen on having new members. When I was at the Hamrun Institute, Mons. De Piro tried to persuade me to join the Society. He made me the invitation several times, but he was always prudent and never insisted too much. When he made me these appeals, I do not remember that the S.G., talked to me about the aim of the Society.
At that time I was less than fifteen years old. I decided to try and I accepted. From Hamrun I joined the Aspirants who were at the B’Kara Oratory. There were quite a number of aspirants. I do not remember in detail what was the program of formation; I spent the greater part of the day helping Bro. Kalcidon in the kitchen. I stayed there for about two months but then I returned to the Institute because I felt I was not called. I do not remember what happened afterwards.
21. “I regard Mons. De Piro as a saint.” Besides what you have already mentioned, do you remember something that shows this saintliness you mention? What do you think were his greatest qualities, or better, his virtues? Do you think there are other people who regard him as a saint and whom you heard calling him in this way? Whom? When he was still alive, and immediately after his death, was he regarded as a saint? Can you prove this?
His bearing witnessed that he was unlike the others. The way he walked, the sense of humility he had, the seriousness with which he talked to others, the charity he practiced, all indicated that he was a priest who lived a life of virtue. When recently the investigations about the saintliness of the S.G., were made known, those who knew him confirmed that De Piro was a saintly person.
22. “In fact I pray to him daily because I can’t ever forget him.” Do you feel that you receive what you pray him? Do you know of other people who pray through his intercession? Do you know if they receive what they pray for? Do you know of some particular favors received through the intercession of the S.G? Can you give details?
Do you think that devotion to the S.G., is increasing or decreasing?
If it is increasing, say why.
It wasn’t the first time that I prayed through the intercession of the S.G., both for myself and for the needs of others, and I believe he hears my prayers. I have his picture with a prayer which I recite everyday. I do not know if people are devoted to him. However when I go to the hospital to visit the sick I often give them the pictures of the S.G. In my opinion his repute of saintliness is increasing more and more. In fact, I notice in the newspapers that many are the persons who write that they received favors through his intercession.
23. “I was still at the Institute when De Piro died. I went to Malta with other children for the funeral. I remember that there were many people, among them many important personalities”. Do you know when, where and how he died? What was the cause of his death? Do you know if he was ill before? In case, what was his illness? How did you get the news of the death of the S.G? What was the reaction to the Servant of God’s death in you children, the members of the Society, and the people in general? Did all the children of the Institute go for the funeral? Do you know where exactly was the funeral held, and in what way? Do you remember any of the “many important people”?
On the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, on 17 September, 1933, Mons. De Piro was at the back of the procession of Our Lady of Sorrows and when he entered the church he died. At that time I was still at the Hamrun Institute. I do not know what preparations were made for the funeral, but myself and other children of the institutes took part in the funeral. There was a large crowd to give their last salute to the S.G. There were a number of important people including the Governor of Malta.
24. Have you anything to add, delete or charge in what you said in this your evidence? The deposition was read.
I have nothing to add, change or delete.
I swear to observe the secret of the Instructions.
Michael Ciangura, witness
Fr. Mario Grech, Delegatus Episcopalis.
Fr. Paul Gatt O.P., Promotor Iustitiae
Fr Frankie Sultana, Cancellarius
Today, Tuesday 11 September 1990, at 9.3Oam, in the Hall of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Diocese of Gozo, a sitting was held, related the Cause mentioned above in the presence of the Bishop’s Delegate Fr. Mario Grech, Judicial Vicar, Fr. Paul Gatt OP., Promotor lustitiae, and the Secretary signed underneath.
The witness, Loreto Rapa, was admitted to give his evidence.
I, Loreto Rapa, son of Michael and Guzeppa, neé Mercieca, was born in Ghajnsielem, on 29 August 1914. 1am married and resides at “St. Joseph Hse”, St. Anthony Str., Ghajnsielem. Retired. I am a practicing Catholic.
I swear to tell the truth.
I confirm the information about the Servant of God (S.G), Mons. Guzeppi De Piro, Founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul (Malta), which I had presented to the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Malta on 18 July 1987.
1. You have come to give evidence in the Cause of Beatification of the S.G., Mons. Guzeppi De Piro. What made you come to give evidence? Was there anyone who told you what evidence to give? In what year can you say that you got to know the S.G?
When the Process at this Cause started, the Postulator of the Cause, Fr. A Sciberras MSSP, approached me as he knew that I was one of the first boys of St. Joseph’s Institute, Ghajnsielem. No one told me what evidence to give. I got to know the S. G., in 1926 practically when the Institute I mentioned was opened and I kept contact with him for four years, because then I went abroad.
2. You refer to the S.G., as “Monsignor”. Do you know if this was a simple honorary title, or if he was a regular canon of the Cathedral? Do you know what were the duties connected with this office? Do you know, in case, how he performed these duties? For what reason was he made a Monsignor?
I only know that De Piro was Monsignor of the Cathedral Chapter.
3. The S.G., came from a noble family. Do you know if the members of this family held some high offices in Maltese society? In case what were they? Do you know if it had a lot of property? In case, what do you know about it with particular reference to Gozo? Do you know if the S.G., bad some particular share of this property and wealth? In case, do. you know what it was and how he used it?
The Monsignor came from a wealthy family. In fact they had many fields rented to Gozitans. I often went to St. Joseph’s Institute in Malta and there I met the S.G’s mother. I always saw her there and I had the impression that for some time she lived there. Once I remember I took an embalmed hen to the S.G., as a present from Karmnu Garella, from Ghajnsielem. The Monsignor was much pleased when he saw this present because he had long desired a hen like this. Excited as he was, he took the hen and went into his office whilst I remained standing outside. Then his mother entered (I do not remember her name) and scolded her son, the S.G., because he had not given me a chair to sit on. She said to him: “You are of little intelligence, you left this boy standing.” At these words, the S.G., started to cry and apologized to me.
4. “I met Mons. De Piro through the Institute of St. Joseph of Ghajnsielem, Gozo. I was one of the first three children admitted by the Monsignor to start the Institute … The parish priests had long desired to start an Institute for children. Since Mons De Piro had already been directing diverse institutes in Malta they thought of him as director of the Gozo Institute.” First of all, do you mean by this that this Institute was the first of its kind in Gozo? If yes, for what children was it opened?
“The parish priests had long desired...” Do you know why? Perhaps there were many such children at that time’? Why hadn’t they opened a similar institute before? As regards this Institute, was it therefore the initiative of the parish priests or of Mons. De Piro? Could it be that the parish priests had the idea and the S.G., turned it into reality? When you say that the parish priests thought of the S.G., to run the Institute, what exactly do you mean? Who exactly thought of the S.G? Who had approached him? In what way was the proposal made? Do you know if the S.G., accepted promptly, or if he considered the proposal for a long time? Do you know if he had made conditions? In case, do you know what they were? Do you know if the parish priests on their part had made conditions to the S.G? In case, do you know if the S.G., accepted them, or if he tried to evade them?
It appears that the admission of the children into the Institute depended on the S.G. Do you confirm this, or do you think that the S.G., needed the approval of someone above him to receive children in the Institute? If this thing depended on the S.G., do you know what criteria he adopted to accept children in the Institute? Do you know if anyone ever complained that one was treated unfairly as regards his admittance in the Institute?
You say that the S.G., was chosen as Director because he had already done this work in Malta. Do you think this was the only reason, or is it possible that there where other reasons? Perhaps because he was well off and so he could provide money for the Institute? Also perhaps because of the contacts he had with the ecclesiastical and civil authorities?
Do you know of which Institutes in Malta he was director? Do you know how he had started this work in the Institutes? Do you know what was exactly his work as director in the institutes of Malta and that of Gozo? Perhaps to see the registers? Perhaps to provide the food and clothes and see to the maintenance of the place? Perhaps he was responsible for the organization of teaching, etc?
When I was still a small boy there were many poor and orphan children, and since there was no institute for boys, and the parish priests desired to begin something in this regard, we heard that Mons. De Piro was going to open a house, which had been in the hands of Englishmen, as an institute. At that time I had heard that it was Mons, De Piro who dealt with the Englishmen to acquire the house. The people were glad to see this new project. I remember in the Institute there were children from various villages of Gozo: from Ghajnsielem, Qala, Nadur, Gharb, Kercem, Sannat, in brief from almost all the villages. The age of the children varied from seven years to fourteen.
The maximum number of children which the Institute received was twenty-one because that was the number of beds in the dormitory. Those who wished to have their children admitted to the Institute came to talk to the Superior. In the absence of the S.G., they used to see Fr. Mikiel Callus, but when Mons. De Piro was there, it was he who received them. There were cases when it seemed to Fr. Mikiel that it would be better if they spoke to the Monsignor and so he left the parents waiting until the S.G., came to Gozo. There was a waiting list of the children who wished to be admitted, but there were no vacant places. Then, another one soon took his place when someone got fed up or left. In my time there were five who left, certainly not because of some fault of the administration of the Institute.
I do not know exactly why he was chosen to be director; but I am certain that, what helped him to be given this office, was the experience the S.G., had in the running of other homes, like those of Hamrun, of Zejtun, Bugeja’s, as well as the fact that he was well acquainted with important people.
Nor can I say what his work in the Institute was. I do not know the answers to the rest.
5. “I met Mons. De Piro through the Institute.. .1 was one of the first three boys...” How old were you when you entered the Institute? What was the normal age of the children when admitted? How long did they stay? Before you entered the Institute did you have some meeting with the S.G? If yes, do you remember your first meeting with him? In case, where did it take place? Was it a formal meeting, or a meeting between friends? Can you give details about the room where you met: if this was his room, etc? What impression did you form of the S.G., on that day when you first met him? Did this impression remain the same, or did it change with the passing of time?
I entered the Institute when I was 11 years old, a year after my father’s death. I came to know the S.G., before I entered the Institute, about six months earlier. We went with him to clean the place, which he was later to transform into the Institute. He wasn’t proud and was ready to do all kinds of jobs. We were attracted to him because we saw in him a priest who loved us. Children as we were, he would give us some useful advice. I have never changed this impression I had of the S.G., not even when I became an adult.
6. “the house where there is still the Institute was a house belonging to Englishmen.” Do you know who had chosen this house? The parish priests or the S.G? In case, why was it the one chosen? Do you know whether it was bought or donated? If it was the S.G, who asked for it or bought it, could he have done this because he had some particular relations with the Englishmen? If yes, can you talk about these relations?
“there was a family in it.” What happened to it when the house was taken for the Institute? Perhaps it was given alternative accommodation? Better, or worse? Or were they simply sent out and they had to find another one? If the latter, do you know if the S.G., had a share in this?
I do not know how this house was chosen to be later adapted for the Institute. I heard people say that he had acquired it from the Governor.
When the house passed into the hands of the Monsignor, it was unoccupied. Years before, it was used by English officers. Then a family who left after a short while occupied it. It was a large house, and it wasn’t easy to acquire a house like that to serve as a home for children.
7. “When the opening was approaching ... and he suggested that you should go to help with the cleaning of the house.” You do not mention the S.G., in this sentence, but you mention him when you refer to the preparations of the opening of the house. Do you mean by this that the S.G., chose between one work and another? Perhaps he was the type who did not like manual work and that which was untidy?
“To prepare for the opening the following persons came from Malta: the Monsignor himself, Fr Mikiel Callus, a member of De Piro’s Society, and Censu Galea ...” Do you mean by these words that the S.G., recognized the importance of the occasion and prepared for it accordingly? In fact was the opening of the Institute such an occasion as to deserve so much importance, or perhaps he was the type who loved to “inflate” things? Did his presence in the preparations for the opening ever suggest to you that he did not rely much on others, but he wanted everything to be under his supervision? From your experience of him at the Institute, what impression did you get of him about this? Or perhaps the fact that he came to prepare the place made you think that he got completely involved in this work even when he was already loaded with other responsibilities?
As I have already said the S.G., was with us while we were cleaning the house. He wasn’t the type to stay passive and observe; rather, he worked with us.
On the inauguration of the Institute, the members of the Society organized a big feast. It wasn’t something inappropriate, for it is to be remembered that this was the first Institute for boys in Gozo. The Monsignor brought with him various important people from Malta. The Bishop of Gozo, Mons. M. Gonzi was present for this inauguration and I remember that, in his speech for the occasion, he praised Mons. De Piro for his work in favour of Gozitan children. I do not think that he was the type to inflate things. I think he relied on his colleagues, the members of the Society; practically, the running of the Institute was in the hands of Fr. Mikiel Callus who remained superior of the home until the death of the S.G.
8. “...Fr. Mikiel Callus, a member of De Piro’s Society.” Are you by this referring to the S.G., as founder of a society? Can you say more exactly what was the name of this Society he founded, and why he gave it this name? What was the aim/aims for which it was founded? When and where was it founded? You often mention Fr. Mikiel Callus as one of the members of this Society who was with you in Gozo. Do you mean that these members worked in the Institutes of the S.G? Besides their work in the Institutes, did they do some other work in Malta or abroad? Were there many members in the Society? Do you know from what environments they came? Do you know if there were boys from the Institutes who joined them? Do you know if all of them remained in the Society, or if there were some who left? Do you know someone/ones who had left? In case, what was the reason? In case, was it because of some shortcoming of the S.G? Did all the members of the Society become priests, or were there some who perhaps joined as brothers? Were the members of the Society bound by some vows like religious in other orders? Do you know of any difficulties that the S.G., had to face at the beginning of the founding of the Society? In case, what were they? Did he ever talk to you about this Society? What was the people’s idea of this Society? Did they praise it or look at it with suspicion? In the opinion of the people, why was it founded?
The Society was named the Society of St. Paul and had as its aim work in favour of the missions. Besides, at that time they took care of the institutes and, apparently, they had in mind to be near the children to promote the vocations. I do not know how many members there were in the Society. I heard that some of them left. There were priests and those who remained brothers. In Gozo, the members of the Society commanded respect, so much so that many approached them for confession. Both Fr. Mikiel Callus and the S.G., were reputed to be good confessors. I do not know how to answer the rest.
I remember, that during my first years at the Institute, Bro. Guzepp Caruana, member of the Society, had left for Abyssinia as the first missionary of the Society. I was well acquainted with Bro. Guzepp because I used to meet him when I went to the Institute in Hamrun, but he never told me that he would be going to the mission. It was the S.G., who, on one of his visits to Gozo, informed us that Bro. Guzepp had left for the missions. I remember that the S.G., was very pleased because by this the aim of the Society began to be achieved. I also remember that after some time Mons. De Piro brought with him some photographs, which Bro. Guzepp had sent from the missions, to show them to us.
9. “...the floor of his room collapsed and he fell below.” You have already said that the house belonged to Englishmen and afterwards to some family. Do you mean that this was a very old house? Doesn’t the fact that the floor collapsed give the impression that, in spite of the preparations made, not enough care was given to more essential things? In fact didn’t the S.G., have a share in the renovation of the place? Or was it the case that there was so much need of the house that, at the moment, nothing better could be done? During your stay at the Institute, did the S.G., try to make improvements in some parts of the old Institute?
“...when he saw us, he told us …” As soon as you saw him after the collapsing of the floor, how did you find him? Perplexed, afraid, weeping, angry, laughing, calm, hurt? Did he appear to be one who exaggerated things, or rather one who tried to hide his sufferings? Did he complain about what happened to him? Perhaps he grumbled that he had to suffer this although he was doing so much good?
“… this is the devil...” The S.G., referred to the devil also when, later on, you mention the story of the Turk. Do you mean that he often mentioned the devil and that he attributed to him every bad thing that happened? Did he ever tell you that God, sometimes, permitted evil so that good might come out of it? Did he frighten you of the devil? In what way and in what circumstances?
“however he will not stop us…” Do you mean to say that the S.G., did not give up quickly? Can you give more examples where you saw the courage of the S.G? Did you see courage in him when he accepted so many tasks? Do you know of some cases where he could have lost courage but in fact he didn’t? From where, do you think, his courage came? Perhaps from his character? Or perhaps he put his strength in God? How can you prove this? Perhaps by some words he used to tell you, or some act you saw him perform?
“The Monsignor had a picture painted to represent this incident.” What do you think was the idea behind this initiative? Where did he put this painting? Do you know if it still exists today and, in case, where is it found? Do you know exactly what the picture contains? Do you know whom he had commissioned to paint it? Was this a famous painter?
The house, which was then converted into an Institute, was an old house. The incident I have mentioned occurred before the Institute was opened, when we were still cleaning and doing repairs. When we found the Monsignor on the floor, he seemed to be under shock. However he remained calm and I remember he put the blame on the devil that wanted to obstruct the opening of the Institute. However the S.G., was determined, full of courage and therefore went on with his work. This courage of the S.G., was not only a natural quality but it was the effect of the faith he had in divine providence. Sometimes he told us not to be discouraged when facing difficulties, for God knew what he was doing and would not leave us alone.
The Monsignor wanted this incident to be remembered by being painted: a roof of stone slabs with a hole in it and the Monsignor on the floor of the room below. On that day we had the impression that this painting was made to remind us of the obstacles of the devil. This picture, the painter of which I do not know, was placed in the chapel. During my stay at the Institute, the picture was still there, but I do not know where it is to be found today.
10. “Many people came for the opening.” First of all, was the opening held at the appointed time in spite of the fall of the S.G? Or was it perhaps postponed? If it was postponed, was this done so that the roof might be repaired, or because the S.G., was injured and therefore the S.G., had to wait until he was well again? Do you know what exactly happened in the inauguration ceremony? Did it give you the idea that the S.G., was a good organizer? What do you say about this aspect of the normal life of the S.G? Did he seem to be a systematic person?
You say that Bishop Gonzi, Bishop of Gozo, had attended for the opening. Can you say anything about the relationship between the S.G., and the Hierarchy in general? And with Mons. Gonzi? Did you ever hear the S.G., talk about the members of the Hierarchy? In case, did he speak about them positively or negatively?
You also say that for the opening there was present the then Governor. Why do you think the latter was there? Simply because it was a great occasion, or perhaps because there was some personal friendship between him and the S.G? Or perhaps also because of some particular sympathy that the S.G., had with the Government of that time? What can you say about this aspect in the life of the S.G? Did he ever talk to you about this subject? Do you know if the S.G., was involved in the conflicts between the Maltese and the British Government, like those of 7 June 1919, and of the 1921Constitution of Malta? If he was involved, in what way and what position did he take?
When the Institute was inaugurated, the Monsignor still suffered from the effects of the fall because he walked with some difficulty. There were various persons invited, both ecclesiastical and civil. Mons. Gonzi, Bishop of Gozo, was present and he blessed the place. There was also the Governor. Later a reception was given. Also the people of Ghajnsielem were present. I cannot answer the rest.
11. Back to the presence of the Governor at the opening ceremony. Do you know if he was there as a guest of the S.G., perhaps as an appreciation of some help he had given, personally or in the name of the government, to the Institute? In case, do you know what this help consisted in? Once we are mentioning appreciation, did you ever think of the S.G., as one appreciative of the good he received? If yes, can you prove this with some examples?
“Diverse priests” also attended? Do you think these came because of the parish priests, or perhaps because they seemed to appreciate the work of the S.G? Later on you mention Fr. Rapa and Fr. Mizzi as two priests whom the S.G., liked to meet and talk with. Although you yourself say that you did not take part in similar conversations did you ever get an idea of what they talked about? from what you noticed can you say, at least whether they talked about serious things or simply to kill time? Were there other priests close to the Institute? Did they talk with the S.G? Do you know if they came to him for advice?
“...and many people from Ghajnsielem itself.” How did the S.G., comport himself before all this? Was the presence of the “many people” an occasion for him to show what he was doing? Perhaps afterwards he talked with you about the many people who were present?
Had he made a speech for the occasion? In case, is it possible that you still remember what he said? In what language did he speak? At the Institute did he ever lecture to you? Did you understand him? About what did he speak to you? Did he show he was an optimist or pessimist in what he said? Did he encourage or discourage you? When he was talking, did he show anger, calmness, love and serenity?
“There was also the children’s band...” Do you know if the S.G., had formed the band of the Institute you mention? Or perhaps it was he who strengthened it? In case, in what way?
“...under the direction of Mro Muscat Azzopardi.” Do you mean that this was the proper bandmaster of the band? Have you any idea why he was the one to be chosen? Perhaps because he had some connection with the Institute? Could it be possible that the S.G., had a share in the musical formation of this bandmaster? In case, in what way? How do you know this?
“....and his brothers (of Fr. Mikiel) Emidio and Karmenu.” Why were there these two? Simply because they were Fr. Mikiel’s brothers, or perhaps they helped the S.G? In case, what exactly did they do?
I believe the Governor was invited for the opening of the home as a sign of appreciation for his offer of the building to the S.G. Mons. De Piro was a grateful person and appreciated very much the help offered by people to the Institute.
For the inauguration there were some priests present. I do not know if they represented the parish priests. Nor do I remember if the parish priests themselves were present.
Fr Guzepp Galea Rapa and Fr. Alfons Mizzi were both priests from Ghajnsielem. Every evening they came to the Institute and conversed with Fr. Mikiel, and with the S.G., when in Gozo. I cannot say what they talked about. There were no other priests who frequented the Institute. I want to observe that Bishop Gonzi sometimes visited the Institute and, from the way he talked with the S.G., and the other members of the Society, it appeared that they were friendly.
On the inauguration, the S.G., appeared happy, but not proud. I remember he made a speech in which he thanked God for this favour and explained the aim of the Institute. The speech was in Maltese.
During my stay there, I don’t remember that he made speeches or conferences to us.
I know that the S.G., had formed both the band of the Hamrun Institute and that of Ghajnsielem. I know this story from Maestro Anton Muscat Azzopardi who was brought up in the Institute of St. Joseph of Hamrun and whom the S.G., had helped in his musical career.
Emidio and Karmenu were invited because both worked in the Institute of Hamrun: the first was a porter and the other a printer.
12. “I entered the Institute ... there were another two admitted with me. One was Frenc Bajada … and the other was Elija Scerri.” Are these still alive? Do you know the reason why they were admitted to the Institute? Perhaps their parents were poor or dead?
“… later many others were admitted. There were up to 24 children in the Institute.” Was this only at your time or all along the years? How long did you stay in the Institute? Why were there only up to 24? Perhaps because there was no more room? In case, for what reason; space, finances, staff? What do you say about number? Did you consider it to be small or too big, considering all the circumstances? If too many, does it mean that you lacked adequate space, enough food, good clothes, etc.? Do you mean then that the S.G., did not bother about these things and for him it was enough for these children to have shelter?
Bajada and Scerri had one of the parents dead. In fact, Bajada’s mother worked in the Institute. Today both are dead. In my time the number of boys did not exceed 21 or 24. As regards space, we were all right.
13. “...he had a lot of work to do in Malta.” Are you referring by this to the running of other Institutes as you have already mentioned, or have you in mind some other tasks? In case, what were they? Perhaps some work connected with the Cathedral, or the Seminary, or with the Bishop? Or perhaps some work connected with the government of the Country? Did he himself volunteer for this work, or was he told to do so by someone else? In case, by whom? How do you know this? Did you ever hear the S.G., complain of too much work? Did you ever hear some member of his Society commenting on the big amount of work of the S.G? In case, in favour or against? When compared with other priests of his time, did the S.G., have more work than they?
At that time, I did not know how varied were the activities the Monsignor. It was my impression that the S.G., was responsible only for the running of the Institute. Nor could I compare his work with that of other priests.
14. “However, he often came to St. Joseph’s ... At times he stayed for a fortnight, especially in summer” “… often…” How often? Always the same, or according to whether it was summer or winter? Do you think it was easy for him to come to Gozo? If not, do you mean that he was ready to make any sacrifice for the work entrusted to him? Can you mention some other sacrifices, which you felt he made because of his work? When he came to see you, what form did his visit take? Did he perhaps speak individually to each boy? Did he perhaps speak to you in a group? Did he say masses for you? Did he hear confessions? Perhaps he organized some special recreation for you? Did he come alone? If not, did he ever bring some boy/boys from some of the Malta Institutes? In case, on what occasions? And why? When he was among you, did he have his meals with you, or in a place reserved for him? Did he have the same food as you? Did he give the impression that he was healthy or that he was weak? Did he have time for rest? What do you say about his clothes? Was he clean and smart, or dirty and slovenly? Did he wear some mark to show that he was a Monsignor? In case, always? Do you remember what clothes he was wearing on that day of the opening of the Institute? Did he have his own room in the Institute? If yes, did you ever enter in it? If yes, on what occasions? Can you describe it?
The Monsignor did not come to Gozo regularly; roughly he came once or twice every two months. His visits were more frequent in the summer months when he came for a rest. We did not know when he would come. At that time traveling by sea wasn’t easy or comfortable. As means of transport there were the ferry that left from Valletta and small passenger boats, which were more uncomfortable. The S.G., came to Gozo by ferry. When he came he would stay for about two days. He said mass for us and anyone could confess to him. I remember I confessed to him only once and I was not afraid. Usually as penitence he gave three Hail Mary and an Our Father in honor of St. Joseph.
With regards to recreation, at times we went to swim together. We all had the same meals, although the S.G., and the other Superiors had their meals in a separate room. The S.G., gave me the impression that he was healthy, his clothes were always clean and smart, underneath he wore the distinctive mark of Monsignor. His room was simple like the one of Fr. Mikiel. He was an orderly and systematic person.
15. “Sometimes even for a fortnight...” What was the reason for him to stay with you for such long periods? Perhaps to be able to see better the life in the Institute? Perhaps to have time to see the registers? In case, if this was his work, did you ever hear if he kept the registers in order? Perhaps he had some other tasks in Gozo? In case, what were they? Perhaps he wanted to take advantage to have a short period of holiday? How do you know this?
As far as I know, the S.G., came to the Institute and stayed for about a fortnight to have a short rest. I do not know if he had some other activities in Gozo.
16. “...he used to meet Fr. Mikiel...” In fact, did you notice that he used to talk with him for a long time? If yes, do you want to say that there was a good relationship between them? Did Fr. Mikiel ever talk about the S.G? If yes, what did he say? Did he show admiration or disagreement with him? If yes, what did he admire in him, or what did he dislike in him? If yes, about what, as regards the one or the other? Do you know whether the S.G., had any good relationship with the other members of his Society who used to be with you?
I have the impression that Fr. Mikiel had great respect for the S.G.
17. “In fact, he paid us great attention. He was always careful about the needs of the children and tried to find remedies to help us.” Can you give details about this attention he gave you? As children were you pleased that the S.G., came to visit you, or perhaps you were annoyed and afraid of him? Perhaps he was too watchful? Did you have the chance to speak to him individually, if you wanted to? Was there ever any case like this? What was the occasion?
You say that “… we did not stay to talk with the Director for a long time ...” Why? Because there was no need? Because you were shy of him? Because those in charge of you would not let you?
At first, when we were only about twelve boys in the Institute we had no distinctive mark in our clothes, but when the number increased it was the idea of the S.G., that we should start wearing uniforms. He took great care of us; I remember that at times when we were playing, the S.G., called our attention to avoid danger. Once while pIaying I felt a pain in my leg and De Piro carried me because I could not walk properly. He was a disciplinarian but he was gentle in his corrections, so much so that when in the evening we gathered in the dormitory, we children observed how much he loved us. Whenever we wanted to talk to him, the S.G., was always ready to hear us.
18. “At the same time this did not mean that Mons. De Piro was reserved or proud. Nothing of this. He did not allow familiarity, but he joked. Whenever he met us he would talk to us.” How is it that you say that he was not reserved and at the same time you say that he did not allow familiarity with you?
“He joked.” Do you remember what type of jokes he shared with you?
“He talked with us.” Perhaps when you mention this point you want to say that you noticed a difference between the way the S.G., dealt with you and how the other priests and Monsignors treated you? Can you explain better? Was this comportment of his always the same, or did it perhaps vary from visit to visit, or from the first years of the Institute to later years?
We did not have the same intimacy with the S.G., as we had with Fr. Mikiel, but we were not afraid of him either; we were glad when he came to visit us. He wasn’t the type of stiff person who kept his distance from us. On the contrary, with a smile, he was ready with a joke. He called me a “butterfly”. I cannot say that he was moody because his attitude was always the same, one of sweetness.
19. “The Monsignor thought of writing in all places “God sees you”. Did he ever explain to you why he did this? Perhaps to encourage you because God was seeing you and therefore was taking care of you all the time, or perhaps to make you afraid of committing sin? In fact, did the S.G., instill the fear of God in you? In case, in what way? Perhaps in his sermons? Perhaps he talked to you about death, eternity, the end of the world? Did this writing appear in the very beginning of the Institute or much later?
“His first thought was to improve the chapel.” Here you mention the various works he did. When you say “first” do you mean that he gave first place to the things of God and religion? Did this occur before you entered the Institute or later? When you say he took care to improve the chapel, do you mean to say that the S.G., wanted the Church things beautiful and appropriate? Do you mean that he did not cease to see that the chapel was in order even after the improvements he had done to it? Among other things you say that he had brought workers from Malta. Do you mean that the S.G., was not content with the just enough in these things? When you consider this, don’t you think that this made him incur more expenses, which he could have used for things, which were more necessary? Among other things you mention the gilding and the bell tower. Doesn’t it appear to you that the S.G., was the type who “thought big”? “… he brought the Stations of the Cross ...” Was it something common for every chapel to have the Stations of the Cross, or perhaps some particular devotion of the S.G? If yes, how do you know this? Do you know if he had preached some spiritual exercises to help people practice the devotion?
Did he see to it that you had masses, confessions and other times of prayer? Teaching of Catechism? What was the daily program of spiritual activities in the Institute? Did the S.G., show enthusiasm for these things? Did he try to exhort you for them? In case, in what way? Did he say mass for you? If not, why not? At least, did you ever see him saying mass? Did any particular thing strike you in this? Did he hear confessions?
About six months or a year after the opening of the home, the Monsignor sent us from Malta cardboards with the words “God sees you” printed on them. He sent enough to put one in each room after we had framed them. I do not know why he wanted these frames to be put up. However, I think that he wanted us to remember continuously of the presence of God.
Since it was time, the sitting was suspended to be continued later.
Today Tuesday, 11 September 1990, at 4.OOpm in the Hall of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Diocese of Gozo a sitting was held in connection with the Cause mentioned above, in the presence of the Bishop’s Delegate, Fr. Mario Grech, Judicial Vicar, Fr. Paul Gatt OP, Promotor Iustitiae, and the Secretary signed underneath.
The witness Loreto Rapa was admitted to go on with his evidence.
19. (continued) As soon as the S.G., acquired the house he reserved a room to be turned into a chapel. When the institute was inaugurated, the chapel was ready to be used and it was dedicated to St. Joseph according to the wish of the S.G. The Monsignor was a great devotee of this Saint. On various occasions he spoke about him in his sermons. The chapel had a certain importance in the thought of the S.G. In fact, in time he took care to embellish it as I have already said. Although he made many decorations, I think it was a modest chapel; there was no exaggeration. I do not think that the money spent on decorations was to the detriment of other things needed. Besides, one must not forget that he had a number of benefactors who contributed to the life of the Institute.
Everyday we had mass, prayers of the “good death”, the rosary and Eucharistic Benediction. We also recited the prayer to St. Joseph. Nearly everyday Fr. Mikiel Callus gave us a catechism lesson and sometimes on Sundays he sent us for catechism to the Parish Church of Ghajnsielem. When the S.G., was among us, I noticed that he often went to the chapel during the day and prayed alone in silence. I also noticed that he said the Breviary whilst walking on the roof or in the yard.
20. “We were all right, as regards food and daily life; we had nothing to complain about.” Do you mean that you never suffered hunger and that you were well fed? Do you remember what meals you had? How did food in the Institute compare with the food of people outside? Later on you say that you went to the villages and beaches to beg. Do you mean that you had to earn your living? Before entering the Institute, had you ever begged alms? Did everyone go out to beg? Daily? How did the people receive you? Who had ordered that you should go out to beg? Did the S.G., ever tell you something about this? Do you know if the S.G., ever went to beg for you? In case, where?
At the Institute food was good and tasty. I cannot say that we suffered where food was concerned, for we were well looked after. Providence was generous with us because people brought us a lot of food. There were times when even the Monsignor sent us tins of meat from Malta.
For us to go begging from door to door was part of the system of life at the Institute. We had a gardener who, every now and then, took some children with him and they went to some village to make a collection. More or less we visited all the villages in one year. The Monsignor did not come with us nor can I say what he thought of the collections. What we collected or received as charity was not enough for our maintenance and so at times we were sent to buy from the warehouses.
As regards clothes, besides the uniform, we had enough clothes to change. We had clothes for work and others to change. The members of the Society insisted on us to keep clean and smart. Once I fell ill and went to hospital in Victoria. Fr. Mikiel came to see me everyday and when the S.G., was in Gozo he always paid me a visit. I felt rather poorly and I remember that the Monsignor always encouraged me; he told me to entrust myself in the hands of St. Joseph and to pray to him to heal me. When I recovered, my mother did not want me to go back to the Institute although both the S.G., and Fr. Mikiel wished me to stay with them.
21. You also mention the school you had in the Institute. What was the situation regarding education at that time in Gozo? What schools were there? For whom? Who attended them? Could you compare the school of the Institute with the school outside the Institute? Why did you have a school in the Institute and did not attend another school? Perhaps because that of the Institute was better? Or perhaps not to mix with others? In case, what was the reason? Among the teachers you mention Fr. Mikiel Callus. Was he qualified? Or perhaps he taught because other teachers could not come? You say that in the evening the head of the school at Ghajnsielem came to teach you. Do you remember exactly who he was? What did he teach? Do you think he taught free of charge, or did he receive payment from the S.G? In case, do you know where he obtained the money from?
“We had lessons in English, Maltese and Arithmetic.” Was everyone obliged to attend lessons? How long did you learn these subjects? Was there anyone who learned some other subject, for example, Italian? Was the S.G., interested in your schooling? In case, in what way? Perhaps by coming to see what you were learning? Or perhaps by asking you questions, one by one? Or by encouraging you and telling you about the need to study? Were there examinations? Prize days? In the latter case, was it held every year? Did he give it importance? In what way?
At my time school attendance was not compulsory; there were children of our age who did not attend any school. At the Institute we could have lessons without going to a state school. I do not know the reason why we were not sent to a state school, probably not to mix with other children. At the Institute, Fr. Mikiel, who was a good teacher, gave us some lessons in the morning, and at times in the afternoon Wenzu Grech, who was a head teacher of a state school, came to teach us. The latter offered his services free of charge We were not organized in classes; we had only one class and we learnt Maltese, sums, English and Religion; the same subjects taught in State schools. The S.G., was interested in teaching, so much so that when he came he wanted to see the examination results. If someone did not obtain good results he would draw his attention. I do not remember that we had a prize day.
22. “There were also the trades of carpentry, tailoring and shoemaking.” Were these introduced by the S.G? Did everyone learn a trade, or were they free? Who taught you? Were they good teachers? Were they paid? Did they have enough tools? Suitable workshops? Did these trades serve at times to help the Institute financially, by, let us say, working for the people outside? Did the children outside of the Institute learn trades at that time?
Before we entered the Institute the Monsignor himself informed us that he intended to offer us training in the trades of carpentry, shoemaking and tailoring. Everyone had to learn a trade; I learned carpentry. Every boy could learn one trade and at the end of the course the Institute gave us a certificate. We had three instructors who came every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we learnt and worked with them; we stopped only when we went for the other lessons. The S.G., took care to furnish the workshops with all the equipment. I noticed that the S.G., showed interest in this training; when he came to the Institute, he went to the workshops and asked the instructors about the work and the progress of the children. For, besides teaching us, they also worked for people and this was one way with which we earned our living. When someone left the Institute, one had the required basis to open one’s own workshop and earn a living, as in fact many did. In a certain sense we were in a privileged position compared with the other children, for these did not have such training. As a rule, no boys who did not belong to the Institute learnt a trade. However, I remember the S.G., who as an act of charity, accepted a handicapped boy from Kercem. This boy was not a boarder but he was given the possibility to learn the shoemaker trade. He used to come in the morning and in the afternoon; in fact he learnt and practiced this trade.
23. You say that when the S.G., noticed that someone was diligent he would take him to Malta to learn more. Do you remember same particular cases of boys taken to Malta? Do you think that these were boys who deserved this, or were there children who were more diligent but never taken to Malta? Is it possible that the S.G., took boys to Malta so that they might be attracted to the Society?
At the Institute did you have a system of pocket money or of saving money for the time when you left the Institute? In a general way, do you think the Institute prepared you for life? Besides the teaching of trades and other subjects, did they talk to you about the future?
It was the wish of the superiors to offer a greater choice of trades to the children, but I think the space of the Home did not permit. However, at times we were invited to go out to learn a trade outside the Home. There were about two or three boys who went to Malta to learn printing. They sent me and some others to an Augustinian Father in their Convent in Rabat to learn bookbinding. Others trained to make baskets from palm leaves. I do not remember that we were given pocket money.
I feel that the Institute prepared us for life; when I was sixteen I emigrated to England and, with the formation I had received from the members of the Society, I could manage well. They taught us how to deal with people and they also taught us how to plan for the future.
24. “The Monsignor also thought of our rest.” What do you mean when you say that the S.G., thought of your rest? Don’t you think that this should have been the concern of those who were with you all the yearlong? What were the daily periods of rest? What was done at this time? What was done in the summer holidays, and those of Christmas and Easter? Would the S.G., be with you in your recreation? You say that the S.G., liked to go with you to the Red Beach and there you spent the time swimming. Did the S.G., also swim with you? Did you go often? Did you stay long? What do you think was the S.G’s aim when he came with you to the beach? Perhaps because he was afraid to send you with the other priests?
Rest was part of the daily programmed. During the scholastic year we had recreation after meals and also a short time after 5.00p.m. We usually played together in the yard. They did not like us very much to mix with other boys. In summer, at times we went to the Red Beach, and when the S.G., was in Gozo he came with us. At times we went for a long walk. I remember once we spent a week’s holiday in Kemmuna.
25. “Near the Institute of St. Joseph there was a peasant who worked some fields which the government gave to De Piro so that he might build the Institute. It happened, though, that the peasant did not want to quit the land he had and the Director did not build the Institute.” Do you want to say that the S.G., had in mind to build another Institute? If yes, to replace the old one, or perhaps simply to extend it? According to you, was there need of this new Institute? In case, why? Was he the one who wanted to build the new one, or was there perhaps someone on the part of the government or the Church who forced him? Did you ever hear the S.G., talk about this project? If yes, what did he say? Did he seem enthusiastic to execute this project? Perhaps he had some plans already?
“... the Government had given to De Piro…” When was it that the government gave this land? Do you know what led to this grant? Perhaps some request on the part of the S.G? How could it happen that the government granted the land and the peasant refused to leave it? Perhaps the government itself did not take the necessary steps? On his part, how did the S.G., comport himself in this? Did he make more efforts to acquire the land? In case, do you know what means he used? The fact is that the Institute was not built. Do you think that this happened because the S.G., realized that there was nothing else to do, or perhaps he preferred to keep peace with the peasant? Is it possible that the peasant had no other means to earn a living? What impression did you form of the S.G., in this question: perhaps that he was timid, that he was easily deceived by some excuse? In your opinion of the S.G., do you think he would have succeeded in building the new Institute if it were not for this opposition of the peasant? What makes you think so?
From the time I was at the Institute, I got to know that the S.G., intended to build a new Institute and thought of a piece of land near to it. It was government property and Guzeppi Garella cultivated it. In fact I remember well the S.G., talking to Garella about this project. Garella did not like the idea very much and did not wish to leave that field. In fact I think that, although the Monsignor succeeded in acquiring the land from the government he had to abandon the project to avoid trouble with Garella who became adamant and refused to leave the land on good terms.
26. “The Monsignor interfered in the question of Strickland.” Here you are certainly referring to Lord Gerald Strickland. If yes, do you remember what was the problem? With whom? In what way did the S.G., get involved in it? Did he take part in it on his own initiative, or was he told by someone else to do so? In case, by whom? Why? What exactly was his part? Did his involvement give good results? How do you know this? In this question, was there ever anyone who was against the S.G? In case, who and why?
“Once he was at the Institute… he called me ... he told me to close the main door… later I discovered what the reason was; he didn’t want to meet him (Strickland). How did he tell you this? Calmly, gently, or perhaps angrily? In fact, when he asked something of you did he assume the attitude of one in authority?
“… he didn’t want to meet him.” How did you get to know that this was the reason? If this was the case, did you ever learn why he refused to meet him? Perhaps because he didn’t like him? Perhaps to show that he had nothing to do with him? Or perhaps because on that day he was tired and did not wish to see people, especially those like Lord Strickland? What was the reaction among you children when he ordered you to keep the door shut? Did the S.G., later give you some kind of explanation?
“In fact when Strickland arrived at the Institute he knocked, but the door remained shut.” Doesn’t it seem to you strange to leave Lord Strickland behind the door? Do you know if there was a reaction on the part of Lord Strickland? Do you know what were the relations between Lord Strickland and the S.G., after this incident?
Only recently did I learn that the S.G., was involved in politics; until I was at the Institute it never crossed my mind that the Monsignor was involved in this activity. When he told me to shut the door he did not appear upset or angry, so much so that I did not suspect anything. I want to make it clear that the information I gave about this incident is based on what I learned years after. When I mentioned Strickland, I was referring to Roger, and not to Lord Strickland.
27. “A little after the inauguration we boys were reciting the rosary in the chapel with Bro. Venanz. At a certain time one of the children, terrified, said that he saw a Turk.” You say that this case was taken so seriously that even the Bishop came to bless the place. In fact, did the Bishop come because he really believed in ghosts, or could it be that, since the Institute was at its beginning, he didn’t want this project to be destroyed because of the fear of ghosts?
“De Piro came the day after. When he arrived he said, ‘this is the devil. First he caused me to fall and now there was all this trouble’.” Did the S.G., come because of this incident of the Turk or because he was due to come? The S.G., attributed this to the devil. Did he ever comment on ghosts? Did he believe in them? Or did he hold up such things to ridicule? Did he perhaps ever say that it was a sin to believe in such things?
I cannot give further information about this incident. I only add that this house was reputed to be haunted. I am referring to the period before it was converted into an Institute. I remember that Bishop Gonzi blessed everywhere, even where we kept the animals.
28. “The Monsignor started the band of St. Joseph.” Do you mean that the S.G., also encouraged such activities? What exactly do you mean when you say “… started the band …”? Did he do it directly, or did he find a bandmaster and left everything to him? Where did the instruments come from? Did all the children join the band or only those who wanted to? On what occasions did the band play? Did the boys receive some payment?
To what I have already said in No. 10, I add that the S.G., himself urged the boys to play an instrument so that they might join the band later. I remember him bringing the instruments from Malta. Although Mro. Muscat Azzopardi helped in the teaching, the running of the band was in the hands of Mro. Mikiel Farrugia who was responsible for one of the Victoria bands. Once Mro. Farrugia complained with the S.G., that he had no bombardon and had to borrow an old one from someone. A week later the S.G., bought him a new one from Malta. When I look back, I imagine that De Piro had taken this initiative to keep the boys happy. No one who expressed a wish to learn an instrument ever met any difficulty. I do not remember that we went to play out of the Institute, or that we received payment for our service. The teaching of the band was not limited to the boys of the Institute. I remember that there were two boys from Ghajnsielem who came to learn music. Later on, the Band, which was born in the Institute, got stronger and became the band of Ghajnsielem.
29. “I have great respect for Mons. De Piro. I have always prayed him, and in all my needs. I have always prayed to the Monsignor especially in the difficult moments of my life. I have great trust in him.” You said that you pray to the S.G., in all your needs. Do you feel that your prayers are answered? Do you know of other people who pray through the intercession of the S.G? Do you know of some favors received through the intercession of the S.G? In case, can you give details?
Can you say something about his death? When, where and how he died. What was the cause of his death? What were the reactions of the Gozitans when you heard about the death of the S.G? Did you go for the funeral? If yes, do you remember where and how it was conducted? Did many people attend? Who officiated? Was his memory kept alive in the Institute? Who kept it alive, and in what way? What was the repute he left behind him in Gozo? Did devotion to him start immediately after his death, or has it been something of recent years? If it began after his death, do you think that with the passing of time it increased or diminished? If it increased, what do you think made it increase? If it diminished, why did this happen?
Have you ever visited his grave? In what circumstances? Do you remember how it is made? Were there other people? What were they doing?
When the S.G., died I was abroad; I remember I received a letter from my mother who informed me about the loss of the Monsignor. I cannot say much about the devotion to the S.G., at that time, but I remember clearly that people respected him and he was reputed for his saintliness. In fact, precisely because they considered him to be a good soul they wanted to confess to him. Years after De Piro’s death, when I talked with my mates who were together with me at the Institute, we all expressed the same opinion: that the Monsignor was a great benefactor and a father to us all. I never heard anyone say unpleasant things about him. I cannot say how much devotion to the S.G., is spread today, as I have little contact with the people owing to my age. I regard him as a saint. In fact I often pray through his intercession both when I say the Rosary and when I hear mass. I feel that I received a favour of healing through the S.G’s intercession. I nearly lost my finger but I prayed De Piro to grant me the favour, and it was so. I do not know of others. I never visited the grave of the S.G., but I wish to have this chance.
30. Do you think that the S.G., deserves the honor of the altars? If yes, why? Which do you think was his most salient quality or virtue?
In my opinion, Monsignor De Piro really deserves the honor of the altars both for his work in Malta and Gozo and for the humility with which he treated us. I was impressed with his devotion to St. Joseph.
31. Do you know if someone is against this Cause of Beatification and Canonization? If yes, who and why?
I do not know anyone who is against this Cause. On the contrary, all those who knew him are certainly in favour.
(The deposition was read out.)
32. Do you want to add to, change or delete anything you said in your evidence?
I have nothing to add, change or delete. I swear to observe the secret according to the instructions.
Loreto Rapa, witness;
Fr. Mario Grech, Delegatus Episcopalis;
Fr. Paul Gatt OP., Promotor Iustitiae;
Fr Frankie Sultana, Cancellarius.
Today, Wednesday, 12 September 1990, in the Hall of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Diocese of Gozo, a sitting was held about the above-mentioned Cause. There were present the Bishop’s Delegate, Fr. Mario Grech, Judicial Vicar; Fr. Paul Gatt O.P., Promotor Iustitiae; and the Chancellor signed underneath.
The witness, Peter Camilleri, was admitted to give his evidence.
I, Peter Camilleri, son of Carmelo and Giovanna née Vella was born in Nadur, Gozo, on 7 November 1916. I am married and live at 59, tas-Sajd Str., Nadur, Gozo. Retired. I practice the Catholic Faith.
I swear to tell the truth.
1. You have come to give evidence in the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God (S.G) Mons. Guzeppi De Piro. What made you come to give evidence? Perhaps someone has told you how to give evidence? When did you get to know the S.G? How long did the contact last?
I have come to give evidence because I understand the need of the information about the S.G., to be collected. Also, I do it out of a sense of admiration and gratitude towards Monsignor De Piro. No one told me what evidence to give. I was in contact with the S.G., from 1925 until he died in 1933.
2. Do you know when and where the S.G., was born? Can you say something about his family? Was it a wealthy and noble family? In case, what did the nobility of his family consist in? Was it a simple title, or did its members perhaps have high positions in society? Did it have much wealth? In case, do you know in what it consisted? You refer to the S.G., as Monsignor. Was this a simple title or because he was a Canon of the Cathedral. In case, do. you know how and why he became a Monsignor?
About the origin of De Piro I knew next to nothing; I knew that he came from a noble family from Mdina and that he was Dean of the Malta Cathedral. When I was at the Institute, sometimes I heard my mates say that in Malta there were some who wanted to make De Piro a bishop, but he did not accept. Most probably my mates obtained this information from the Brothers of the Society, who were with us at the Institute.
3. What do you say about the physical figure of the S.G? Was he tall, short, stout, thin? Did he appear to be healthy or sickly? Tidy or disreputable and dirty? Did he keep his clothes clean? Did he wear something distinctive to show that he was a Monsignor?
Mons De Piro was well built. I noticed that his gait was heavy, but the color of his face indicated that he was healthy. He was not slow but rather energetic. The S.G., kept himself clean and smart. Also his clothes were always clean. He did not wear any mark to show that he was a monsignor, except that his alb had the lace with red lining.
4. “I was admitted to the Institute of Ghajnsielem ...” What exactly was the Institute? Perhaps an orphanage? What was its name? At what age were children admitted and how long did they stay?
“A little after the opening ...” Do you know when the Institute was opened? “A little ...” How much? On whose initiative was the Institute opened? If it was the S.G’s, do you mean that it was his idea and his accomplishment (of the idea)? If there was someone else, who was he and in what way did he share in the project? If it was the project of someone else, in what way was the SG., involved? Do you know if the S.G., consented without hesitation? Do you know if there were conditions? What were they, and who made them? Was it the S.G’s share to found the Institute, or was he perhaps to be its director as well? In the latter case, do you know in what the work of director consisted? Do you know if, at that time, other similar institutes existed in Gozo? What was your age when you entered the Institute? Who accepted you? If it was the S.G., do you mean to say that part of his work was to accept the children? If yes, do you know what criteria he used to admit children? Were there any regulations? In case, did the S.G., follow them? Do you know if there were some children who sought admittance and were refused by the S.G? Do you know why?
“... I was the 23rd.” Do you know if others were admitted after you? If not, what was the reason? Lack of room, finances, personnel? Were there no more who wanted to enter? As regards finances, do you know from were the Institute obtained the money? Perhaps from the Church, the government, from collections? Did the S.G., ever show preoccupation about the financial state of the Institute? In case, in what way did he show this?
The Institute was named after St. Joseph. I do not know the origin of this name. It received mostly orphans. When I was admitted, I was nine and a half years of age. However, at times, younger children were admitted. As a rule we stayed at the Institute until we were 17 years of age.
The home was inaugurated in May and I entered in June. In my opinion, always according to what I heard people say, the idea of opening the first institute for children in Gozo was Mons De Piro. I have the idea that the S.G., asked the parish priests to help him in this project, but I do not know if they cooperated with him.
The S.G., was the Director of the home. The ordinary running of the Institute was the responsibility of Fr. Mikiel Callus. However, the S.G., every now and then would come from Malta to see how we were getting on. As far as I know, Fr Mikiel was responsible for the admittance of the children to the Institute. They did not take more than 2 children, owing to lack of room for more. I remember that when I was admitted, I was the last one to be accepted to complete the number.
The finances of the Institute depended primarily on the collections we made. We collected both money and other articles of food. I do not know if the Church or the government gave any help. However, although the S.G., had obtained the home from the government, the latter did not charge rent.
I cannot say if Mons. De Piro contributed to the Institute out of his own money. However, I do not consider it to be impossible because he was a man of charity.
5. “Mons. De Piro did not stay permanently at Ghajnsielem but he went there at least once a month.” When he was not at the Institute, where would he be? If in Malta, do you meant that he came from Malta? If yes, do you know if this was easy for him at that time? If not, why not? Only because of transport, or perhaps because he had other problems? In case, what were they? Perhaps because of some other work he had in Malta? In fact do you know what other work he had in Malta? Perhaps the direction of other Institutes? In case, do you know which ones? What type of children was accepted? How many children did they keep? What was his work there as director? Besides the Institutes, do you know if he had some other work? Perhaps in the civil life of the Island?
The S.G., came to Gozo about once a month. I do not know where he had residence in Malta. When he came, he would leave his other commitments in Malta, which commitments were not few. In fact he was responsible for about four Institutes. The largest was St. Joseph’s in Hamrun, which had about 100 children. Besides these commitments De Piro was also involved in the political life as a member of the Senate, and in some mediations. I cannot give details.
When he came to Gozo, he always stayed at the Institute, as far as I know. He could easily stay somewhere else because the Monsignor had friends in Gozo.
6. “Every time he stayed for about two days.” Do you still remember how he spent the day while he was in Gozo? Perhaps secluded? Or did he perhaps talk with those in charge of you? Or did he talk with you children. Do you know if good relations existed between the S.G., and those who were in charge of you? How do you know this? I suppose that the S.G., had his room in the Institute. Did you ever enter it? On what occasions? Are you able to describe it?
Many times he stayed talking to Fr. Mikiel. At times he went to Rabat to visit the Bishop. At that time there was a student of the Society, which the Monsignor had just founded. This student stayed at the Institute and studied for the priesthood at the Gozo Seminary. Most probably the S.G., would go to Rabat because of him.
He said mass for us, and after meals he would distribute sweets to us. I remember that once there was a big storm and the S.G., invited us to go to the chapel to pray for those who were at sea.
I always had the impression that the relations between the S.G., and the members of the Society who were with us at the Institute were very good. In fact, I noticed that the Brothers were happy when the Monsignor came to stay with us. I remember Bro. Ruzar saying that the S.G., had confessed he wished to come to Gozo more often but his work in Malta did not allow him.
At the Institute the Monsignor had his own room. It was
a simple room deprived of any luxury. I remember that in his room there was a painting of the Monsignor falling through a collapsing roof. Another detail of the picture, which I remember, was the statue of St. Joseph on the commode. It was said that the incident depicted in the painting was the work of the devil.
7. You say that the Monsignor “… was serious but at the same time he was very affable. He was not proud, so much so that he ate the same food as the children.” What do you mean by serious? Perhaps that he did not talk? Perhaps that he did not joke? Perhaps he commanded respect? You would not see him indulge in small talk? Always absorbed in his work? Would not allow familiarities?
“… very affable ...” What do you mean by this? How do you connect it with his seriousness?
“… he was not at all proud ...” Perhaps he did not put on airs because he was a Monsignor and Director? Perhaps he didn’t shout at you?
“… eat...” Later on you say that, considering those times, life at the Institute was good. Perhaps you mean that compared with life outside it wasn’t bad? Was it still a life of poverty? Are you at the same time saying you expected the S.G., to have different dishes from the children regarding the quantity and quality of food?
Do you remember what you used to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Did you eat something between the main meals? How do you know that the S.G., ate the same food as you, when later on you say that he did not have meals in the same refectory as you?
When I describe the Monsignor as a serious person, I mean that he did not speak much; he was collected and absorbed in his work. He wasn’t a strange person, but his words were sweet. He was an affable person. He was not proud nor did he put on airs because he was a monsignor or director. In fact, I remember that whereas some Monsignors wore red socks and other distinctive marks, Mons. De Piro was more simple and modest in his clothes.
Food was not lacking; I do not know that we ever went to sleep hungry. On Sundays, we had a special dish. According to the cook, the Monsignor had the same food as we; they did not make any preference with him. He had a good appetite but he did not exaggerate.
8. “...he did not stay in the same refectory as we did, but with the members of his Society.”
What do you mean by “… his Society”? Perhaps that he had founded some society? In case, can you give details of it? When, where and how was it founded? What was its aim or aims? Who were its first members? Where they many or a few? From what environment did they come? Did they live in a community? Did they make vows? Was the aim for which the Society was founded, being achieved, and, in case, how? Did the S.G., face particular difficulties in the first years of the Society?
You say that, at the Institute, the S.G., had his meals with the members of the Society. Do you mean that some of them lived in the Institute? If yes, do you mean that the members of the Society were in charge of the Institute? If yes, do you know if the S.G., organized some activity at the Institute, which could yield new members for the Society? In case, in what way? In fact did any one from the Institute join him? Is the Institute today still in the hands of the members of the Society? If not, when did they leave it? Perhaps at the time of the S.G? In case, for what reason? As regards meals: why do you think he had his meals not with you children but with the members of the Society? Perhaps he wanted the opportunity to speak with them? Do you know if, during his visits in Gozo, he had some meetings with them? Or perhaps he dined with them because of the noise you made, or perhaps the manners of some of the children annoyed him?
At first the Society consisted of a small group of priests and brothers who began to meet with the S.G. Their aim was to preach the Word of God away from the shores of our Island. The first member of the Society who left for the missions was Bro. Guzepp Caruana who went to Abyssinia. I remember that before he left for the missions, Bro. Guzepp came to our Institute and we celebrated his departure. I do not remember if the Monsignor was present. We sang the hymn of the missions, and the Superior of the Home, Fr. Mikiel gave him the cross. I do not know if they made vows, but I have the impression that they lived in a community.
The members of the Society were responsible for the running of the Institute and I do not know if they organized activities connected with vocations. During the lifetime of the S.G., the Institute remained under the care of the Society. I think that the S.G., and the other members of the Society had their meals in a separate room for the simple reason that there wasn’t enough room in the refectory where we dined. I do not think that the S.G., dined apart to escape from the children, or because their noise annoyed him. In fact the S.G., was not the type of person who put us off. On the contrary he loved to be near us.
9. “Again, every time he came he brought sweets which he distributed to us.” Was it difficult at that time to receive sweets, or was it something common? From where do you think the S.G., got the sweets? Did he buy them? Were they given to him for you? Why do you think he wanted to give the sweets himself, rather than give them to those in charge of you?
“… whilst giving sweets to someone ... what did you dream?” What do you think was the reason why he asked you about your dreams? What was his reaction when you described your dreams?
“Because of this we were not at all afraid of him.” What do you mean when you say you were not afraid of him? Perhaps you ran to him to joke with him? In case, how did he react? Did he give you the chance to joke with him, or did he seem to want to get rid of you, or did he show that he was very busy?
We did not eat sweets every day, and we looked forward to those that the S.G., gave us. According to the Brothers, the Monsignor bought the sweets of his own money. He gave the same to each. I still remember that he would take a handful of sweets and distribute them to us without even lifting his eyes. He could have given the sweets to Fr. Mikiel to give them to us, but I guess the S.G., took the opportunity to meet each child and speak to him. When he asked someone of us what he had dreamt, I do not think that he had in mind some particular reason. In fact the S.G., did not comment. We did not feel the need to speak to him, because usually we went to Fr. Mikiel. However, if someone wanted to speak to him, he would not find any difficulty to approach him; in fact we were not shy of him.
10. “Considering that time, life in the Institute was good …” We have already talked about food. What do you say about the clothes? Did you have enough clothes, which were suitable for the season you were in? Were they new or old clothes? Did you have a uniform? Did you have shoes and sandals? Everyone? Did you have the right facilities for washing? Did you have time for recreation during the day? What was done at such moments? Did the S.G., mix with you in these periods? Did he perhaps encourage you to participate in recreational activities that you had? Did you have holidays in summer and at Xmas and Easter? How did you spend them?
On Sundays, when we went for a walk, we put on our uniforms. We also wore uniforms when we went to hear mass in the Parish Church of Ghajnsielem or when I went for the feast of Mnarja, the feast of my Parish. Clothes were not lacking; those who did not have their own would put on clothes, which the people gave us. I do not remember that shoes or sandals were lacking. Although it was a time of scarcity we did not suffer.
The members of the Society insisted on us to have our recreation. In winter we went for walks and in summer we went to the beach. I do not remember that the S.G., ever came with us to the beach. It was normal for us to have a holiday’s rest, because even in summer we went on with our trade lessons. However, there were occasions when we went out for a whole day. I do not remember that we had some special activities at Christmas and Easter. However, at Xmas we used to make a large crib.
11. “Although at my time the Institute was not yet well known.” Do you mean that, in spite of this, life in the Institute was good? Do you also mean then that, if there were deficiencies, they were not due to any negligence on the part of the S.G? At your time did the S.G., try earnestly to make the Institute well known? In case, in what way? Did he perhaps visit the parishes and speak to people about the Institute? Perhaps he contacted some people personally? Did you go out to beg alms for the Institute? How often? Everyone? Did the S.G., ever talk to you about this?
At my time, the Institute was still in its first phase was not well known by people. In no way do I want to mean that this lack of popularity was due to carelessness on the part of the S.G., or of the members of the Society. However, those who knew about us were very generous with us. De Piro was the friend of certain Monsignors in Gozo and these contributed to our maintenance. The older boys used to make a collection once a month. They went in twos to different villages and always returned loaded with goods. On New Year’s Day we went to Nadur and made a special collection. On that day Mr. Portelli, who was an important person in the Village, accompanied us. In the same parish, when we went to make the ordinary collection, one of the local priests accompanied us. I never heard Mons. De Piro talk about the collections.
12. “For lessons there were Fr. Mikiel Callus during the day, whilst the Head of Ghajnsielem school went in the evening.” Were these in your opinion, good teachers? In fact, did the standard of schooling in the Institute compare with that of children outside the Institute? How many years did your studies cover? What exactly was the S.G’s share in the school of the Institute? What subjects did you learn? Were you taught Italian? If not, why not? Perhaps because the S.G., was against this language?
“Trades were introduced in the Institute some months after its opening.” Do you know if it was the S.G., who insisted on them? If yes, in what way did he insist that you should learn a trade? Were they compulsory for everyone? In your opinion did you know enough about the trade to help you earn a living after leaving the Institute? Did the S.G., ever help some of you to find work? Or to help him find a home after leaving the Institute? Was there ever anyone who was helped financially by the S.G., even after leaving the Institute?
About this I want to make it clear that Fr. Mikiel Callus taught us catechism. In my opinion, schooling in the Institute was not continuous. At first nothing was done, but then a few months later the head of Ghajnsielem school would come to teach us for about an hour in the afternoon. Later he ceased to come and Fra. Ruzar took his place, with this difference: the head teacher taught us Maltese, Arithmetic and English, whilst Br. Ruzar gave us lessons only in Maltese. Br Ruzar did not continue to teach us up to the end and no one replaced him. In those days, it wasn’t easy to find teachers.
Every year there was a Prize Day and prizes were given for the best conduct. I do not remember that the S.G., attended, but some priests, friends of the Institute, were there. We were taught singing, and this included Italian songs.
At the Institute we had the opportunity of learning a trad. Not all the instructors had the same ability. In my case, as a tailor, I needed to have more training in the trade after I left the Institute.
I can’t answer the rest of the questions.
13. “Great was De Piro’s interest in us, and he did his best to help us achieve more progress.” Can you give more details about this? Perhaps the S.G., did this by showing your work to outsiders? Perhaps by organising some fair? Perhaps by taking to Malta those who were promising?
The fact that the S.G., came to see us regularly meant to me that he was interested in us; we did not feel that he abandoned us. I do not know if he took same children to Malta for further training.
The annual fair was held on the occasion of the anniversary of the opening of the home, in May. On that day we also celebrated the feast of St. Joseph, our patron saint and titular of the chapel of the Institute. The S.G., himself led the liturgical celebration.
14. “When he was at Ghajnsielem he made it a point to say the children’s mass. He celebrated mass with such devotion that the children were impressed.” Why did he want to say mass himself? How did you know that he wanted to say mass himself? In what did the devotion you mention consist? Perhaps in the time taken, the manner of his gestures, the tone? At what time was the mass said? If early in the morning, didn’t he show signs of tiredness and lassitude?
Besides saying mass, did he stay at the Institute to hear confessions? If yes, do you know if he was strict in confessions? Did he make some exhortation in confession? In case, what did he emphasize most? Perhaps the punishment of God, or perhaps mercy?
Did he preach for you? If yes, did you follow him? What did he preach about mostly? Out of the Institute did he hear confessions and preach in Gozo? In case, can you give more details? Did you have catechism lessons at the Institute? How often? For long? Was the S.G., connected with these?
When Mons. De Piro was in Gozo, he said mass for us children. It would have been the second mass for us, for we would have already taken part in Fr. Mikiel’s Mass.
I noticed that he said mass with great care. As a prayer of preparation, during Fr. Mikiel’s mass, the S.G., would be in the chapel, kneeling on a prie dieu absorbed in prayer. Then, while putting on his vestments, he said prayers in a low voice and did everything with devotion. During mass he was collected without any sign of distraction. Although the liturgical prayers were in Latin he said them word by word, everything calmly. In fact the reaction of us children was mixed: some grumbled because the Monsignor was slow in his mass, while others appreciated this.
In the evening we gathered for Benediction; at times the Monsignor conducted the service. He was a great devotee of St. Joseph. In fact it was the S.G., who wanted the chapel of the Institute to be dedicated to St. Joseph, and the image of St. Joseph fixed on the external wall of the Institute was made according to the S.G’s wish. As I have already said the painting he had in his room included the figure of St. Joseph.
15. “In the band ...” When you say that the S.G., himself brought the instruments and found a bandmaster, do you mean that it was he who started it? Where did he bring the instruments from? Did he buy them, or did someone perhaps give them to him? How do you know this? Do you know what kind of instruments they were? “Found a bandmaster … from Rabat.” Do you remember who the bandmaster was? Was he in your opinion a capable bandmaster? If yes, do you mean to say that the S.G., always tried to give you the best? Do you know if the S.G., kept contact with this bandmaster to see about your progress? Was the band well established at the time of the S.G? If yes, did it play somewhere? Where? Were there at that time many other bands in Gozo? If not, do you mean that the S.G., started something that had been much desired? In fact, how was it received by the Gozitans? As regards the children who belonged to the band, do you think it helped them to feel capable and to discover their own talents? Did the children or the Institute receive money for their services?
It was Bro.Ruzar who began to gather us and teach us the band. However he used to tell us that the S.G., was thinking of providing us with the instruments. In fact the Monsignor bought them from Malta and brought them here in Gozo.
The S.G., approached the bandmaster Mikiel Farrugia from Victoria and asked him to teack us. The latter came three times a week.
I knew that there was another band at the Institute in Hamrun and sometimes we obtained music scores from them. I do not remember who was the bandmaster of the Hamrun band.
Ours was the fourth band in Gozo. I remember that we took part not only in the activities of the Institute (in the feast of May), but also in other feasts like the Eucharistic Congress and the feast of St. Anthony (Mgarr).
16. “When De Piro died ...” Do you remember when, where and how the S.G., died? Do you know how the S.G., regarded death? Do you know if he had been ill before? How did you get the news of the S.G’s death? Did the person who gave you the news appear sad? Was there an atmosphere of sadness at the Institute? If yes, were the members of his Society sad? Did they tell you something in particular about the S.G., on this occasion?
“… we were six children to attend his funeral ...” Was it your choice to go, or were you chosen by your superiors? Do you remember with whom you went to Malta for the funeral? Do you know if other Gozitans went for the funeral? Was there mourning and sorrow in Gozo for the death of the S.G?
Did people at that time say something in particular about the S.G?
“I remember that the mass was celebrated at St. Joseph’s in Malta, where he lied in state until the time of the mass.” Do you know how long he lied in state? Do you know if many people went to see him? If yes, do you know if these came from all classes of society? Do you remember who led celebrated the funeral mass? Did many people attend? Do you remember some particular persons who attended? Was any sermon preached?
“There was not much pomp at the funeral; it was like a private one.” Do you know whose decision this was? Perhaps that of his relatives, or a one of the members of the Society? Or did he leave it in his will? How do you know this? In fact, did he give the impression that he liked pomp and honours?
“And then near the gate of the Addolorata Cemetery there was a large crowd of people including important people and authorities.” Who were these important people and authorities? Civil or Ecclesiastical? Who were the “many people”? Perhaps male religious, nuns, priests, children, women, men, rich, poor? Do you know where he was buried?
It was the feast nf Our Lady of Sorrows and the S.G., collapsed in the church of St. Cajetan, in Hamrun, and died. I do not know how he spoke about death. I had seen him a month earlier and he did not look ill. The news of his death reached the Institute the following morning. The news shocked everyone and everyone, brothers and children, looked sorrowful.
I was one of the six children chosen to go to Malta to attend the funeral. Bro. Ruzar accompanied us whilst Fr. Karm stayed in Gozo to mind the other children. Little can I say about the reaction of the people because I had little contact, since I was at the Institute. He had a private funeral; I do not know whose decision this was. From Gozo we went straight to the Institute in Hamrun, where the S.G., was lying in state in the chapel. Together with the children of the other Maltese Institutes we said prayers for his soul.
I cannot remember who took part in his funeral, nor who conducted the funeral ceremony. On that occasion I heard that there were some individuals who approached the S.G’s coffin and touched it with their rosary or something else to serve as a memento. Obviously they did this because they regarded him as a saint. I remember that when we reached the cemetery there was a big crowd of people waiting to give him their last salute. Although I cannot specify who they were, I have the idea that there was a number of important people.
They buried him at the Addolorata Cemetery, but some years later the members of his Society took him to St. Agatha’s.
17. In your opinion is there still devotion to the S.G? If yes, do you think this started immediately after his death or is it something of today? If at the moment there exists devotion to the S.G., in what does it consist? Perhaps there are people who pray through the intercession of the S.G? Perhaps vows are made through him, holy pictures are distributed, etc? Do you pray through the intercession of the S.G? Do you know of some others who pray through his intercession? Do you know of some favours obtained through the intercession of the S.G? In case, can you give details?
I regard him as a saint. His work was directed towards the glory of God and the welfare of souls; he did not think of himself. At first, after his death, the S.G., already had the repute of a saint; but later, especially after the beginning of his Cause, devotion to the S.G., increased. Evidence of this is given by persons who publish in newspapers favours received through his intercession. I pray God through the S.G’s intercession.
I8. Did you ever visit his grave? Can you describe it? When you went there, were there other people? In case, what were they doing? Were there flowers, candles, ex voto, ect.?
I never visited the grave of the S.G. Since it is in Malta, I find it difficult to cross the sea.
The deposition was read
19. Do you want to add, omit or change anything in this your evidence?
I have nothing to add, change or delete.
I swear to keep the secret according to the Instructions.
Camilleri Peter, witness;
Fr. Mario Grech, Delegatus Episcopalis;
Fr. Paul Gatt 0P., Promotor Iustitiae;
Fr Frankie Sultana, Cancellarius.
Today, 8 January 1991, there was a sitting of the Cause above mentioned, in the presence of the Bishop’s Delegate, Fr. Mario Grech, Judicial Vicar, Fr. Paul Gatt 0.P, Promotor Justitiae and the Notary signed underneath. The witness, Fr. Raphael Azzopardi 0.S.A. was admitted to give his evidence.
The witness, Fr. Raphael Azzopardi OSA, was admitted to give his evidence.
I was born on 24 November 1911, of Paul and Carmena née Xuereb, from Xewkija, Gozo. I was a lecturer in Theology at the Augustinian College and INSERM. At this time I serve as Judge in the Ecclesiastical Tribunal.
I swear to tell the truth.
I confirm the information about the Servant of God (S.G) Mons. Joseph De Piro, which I had presented to the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Malta on 10 July 1987.
1. You have come to give evidence in this cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God (S.G) Mons. Guzeppi De Piro, founder ot the Missionary Society of St. Paul. What made you come to give evidence? Was there perhaps someone who told you what evidence to give? When did you get to know the S.G? Did you have any particular contact with him? Were you related to him?
Since the members of the Missionary Society of St. Paul knew that I lived at the time of the S.G., and that I had close contact with the students of the Society because they attended our College in Rabat (Malta), they approached me to see if I could give some information about him. I gladly accepted this invitation because I had a very high opinion of Mons. De Piro. No one told me what evidence to give. I was still a child when I first heard about Mons. De Piro. It was on the occasion when Mons. De Piro inaugurated the Institute of St. Joseph at Ghajnsielem, Gozo. This was the first Institute of its kind in Gozo and it received orphan boys. Both the clergy and the people welcomed this initiative with enthusiasm. On the day of the inauguration there was a feast for which a great number of people and some members of the clergy attended. I remember that the then parish priest of Xewkija praised highly this work of beneficence. Later I got to know the S.G., a little better when in 1930 I began my studies at our College in Rabat (Malta). At that time I was about 19 years old. I used to meet Mons. De Piro occasionally. As I have already said his students attended the same College.
2. At the beginning of your information you describe the S.G., as a person. quite tall, stout and smart. How old was he at that time? Do you know when and where the S.G., was born? What do you know about the family environment of his upbringing? Do you know anything in particular about the members of his family, his parents, his siblings? At least do you know how they were regarded by the people? If they were wealthy do you know in some way the extent of their wealth? What was the S.G’s share? What did he do with this? What were the relations between the S.G’s siblings?
“He was tall, stout and smart.” Do you mean that when you got to know him, the S.G., appeared to be a healthy man? Do you know if he had fallen ill before? In case, what were these illnesses? Do you know if other members of the family had the same illness?
“Smart.” Can you explain better what you mean by this? Do you know if on his daily clothes he carried some particular distinctive mark? If yes, was it perhaps because he was a Monsignor? Do you know how and when he became a Monsignor?
At that time the S.G., was about 50 years old. I know next to nothing about his family background, except that he came from a noble family which had a high repute and enjoyed a certain respect. It was a family reputed for its charity. I cannot give information either about the family patrimony or the relations between the members of the same family. His clothes were tidy and orderly; he kept his dignity as a monsignor without keeping away from the people ... I observed that he was most affable in his contacts with people. At times when I met him, and this was not often, I noticed that like his colleagues, he wore the distinctive marks of a monsignor. He was a monsignor when I knew him.
3. “Wherever he was, he was always collected; you would never see him indulging in small talk for long; he was most collected.” “Wherever you saw him …” You say that you used to see him at the Cathedral. Do you remember if you also saw him in other places? In case, where? “He was always collected; he was most collected.” Can you explain better what is meant by “collected”? Perhaps that he was always with bowed head, or always seemingly absorbed in thought? What was your impression of him? A distracted person, absent minded, a person in the act of praying? In fact did you ever see the S.G., praying? In case, when and where? “... indulge in small talk for long.” Besides,referring to his recollection, do you mean that the S.G., did not waste his time in useless conversation? Can you prove in some other way that the S.G., made good use of his time?
I used to see him mostly during the services at the Cathedral. My fellow students and some other people met him in other circumstances and I remember that they referred to him a “recollected” person. When I say “recollected” I mean that he was serious, balanced, and orderly, but at the same time he was most affable. He wasn’t distracted or frivolous. Nor was he monotonous; he was of a cheerful disposition. I never saw him praying, but I still remember that my mates noticed how recollected he was also during some procession. The S.G., would be recollected whilst the others were somewhat distracted, talking to one another, etc.
The fact that he would not engage in long conversations meant to me that Mons. De Piro did not have time to waste because of his commitments.
4. “This does not mean that the Monsignor was proud or conceited; I can say without any reserve that he was a man of great humility ...” Can you expand on the S.G’s humility? Do you know of some facts that prove this virtue?
“He was also most affable and so one could freely talk to him.” How do you connect his recollection with the fact that he was affable? How do you know that one could freely talk to him? Was it perhaps because you yourself had occasion to talk to him? Perhaps because you knew others who talked to him? Perhaps because you saw people talking to him? Did you ever speak with anyone who used to talk to the S.G? Were you told what they talked about?
Although he was a nobleman and a Monsignor he was not proud; he was able to mix with the people and with us students and talk to us in a familiar way. At that time such an attitude was not common among noblemen and monsignors, because the two categories upheld their dignity and would not encourage too much familiarity with those not of their rank.
Although I never spoke to him personally because I was always with my companions and we spoke to him together, I had the impression that he was sincere and inspired confidence. He wasn’t reserved. On the contrary he was easy to approach and talk to. I noticed that during confessions he listened with patience and without haste.
5. “He went to the Cathedral not only for services. There he liked to stay to hear confessions.” Before this you say that “… we went to the cathedral on several occasions to take part in ceremonies or processions with the Cathedral Chapter. All this enabled me to see De Piro and get to know him personally.” Do you therefore mean that the S.G., would be at the Cathedral regularly? During all the time that you knew him? Have you got any ideas as to how he comported himself during the services of the Cathedral?
“… he liked to stay to hear confessions. You would see him in the confessional, with the breviary in his hands, waiting patiently to hear confessions. A certain person said this to us students. He admired him for the long time he spent in the confessional.” Did many penitents go to the S.G? Did they belong to some particular category of society? Did you ever hear anyone talk about the S.G., as a confessor? Do you know if, besides at the Cathedral, he went to hear confessions in other places? In case, where? Do you remember who was the person who admired him for patiently waiting for his penitents?
“He said this to show the zeal of this priest.” Do you mean that the S.G., had the repute of a person who was full of zeal in the performance of his duties? Can you give more details about this? Did this person supply more information about the S.G?
Do you know whether the S.G., administered other Sacraments, besides the Sacrament of Penance? Did he assist the dying? Was he asked to deliver sermons? In case, where and on what occasions?
Although I do not know what were the duties of a monsignor at the Cathedral, I can say that every time I attended for some liturgical celebration I always saw De Piro present. The Monsignor was the confessor of the Chapter. It was a known fact that people who needed to confess were certain to find the S.G., waiting in the confessional during some service at the Cathedral.
I cannot answer the rest of the questions.
6. You often mention the S.G’s Society. Can you give more details about the S.G., as founder of the Society? For example, do you know how and when he exposed the idea of founding the Society? Where exactly did it begin? Why there? Did you ever hear the S.G., himself talk about the Society? In case, in what way did he talk? Was he alone who started to found the Society, or did he get help from others? What was the background of the first members? Were there many? How was the Society received in the first days of its existance by the Ecclesiastical Authorities, the other religious, the laymen? Do you know of some particular problems De Piro had to face at the start of the Society? In what way did he face them?
It appears that the aim of the Society was the missions. And you prove this by saying that the students themselves wore the cross of the missions. Can you prove more clearly that this was the aim of the Society? At that time in Malta what was understand by “missions”? Were there other missionary societies? Can you tell me if the S.G., wanted his society to be a regular society, that is, one whose members would publicly profess the vows and live in a community? “De Piro did not want the members of his Society to do this work (the Lent missions). However, he wanted them to note the missionary zeal of the diocesan priests.” How do you know all this? Why didn’t the S.G., want the members of his Society to dedicate themselves to this work? You state that at first your Convent was close to the homes of the Society. Besides, the students of the Society came to your convent for literature, philosophy and theology. Do you know the reason for this initiative and who took the first step regarding this? Were there other ties between the Augustinian Fathers and the S.G/his Society? Did you ever hear your professors talk about the spiritual and academic preparation of these students? What was your impression of the students? Did you notice in them the missionary spirit?
The Monsignor never spoke to us about his Society. I do not know how this Society originated. At first, the members met in a house in Mdina, which probably belonged to the De Piro family. I had heard from the same members of the Society, as well as from other priests, that the aim of the Society was to send members abroad to evangelize Maltese emigrants. The first members came from middleclass families. I remember some six of them who attended our College. Those who came to our College were student clerics.
The first master of the students was Fr. Bugeja, an Augustinian. I never had contacts with him. I had heard from the students that Archbishop Mauro Caruana had promised De Piro that as soon as they had twelve priests members of the Society he would choose one of them to be their Superior. In my opinion, this was a sign how much the Archbishop valued this Society. The Archbishop had trust in the S.G. Some time had to pass before this number of 12 priests was reached, because some of the members of the Society left after their ordination. Although some members left De Piro alone he was still determined to go on with this work. According to Mons. Anton Buhagiar, the S.G., was satisfied, even when members left, because they would still be diocesan priests.
In general by missions we understood the proclaiming of the gospel to those who had never heard about it, but in the case of the Society founded by the S.G., by missions they understood work among Maltese emigrants. However, the first missionary of the Society was Bro. Guzepp who was sent to Abyssinia. I also know that the Society kept close contact with him. At that time the Society of St. Paul was the only missionary society in Malta. I remember that this Society was from the beginning regular; the members professed the vows.
To be more precise, it wasn’t that Mons. De Piro did not want the members of the Society to take part in the local Mission, but their chief aim was to teach and preach the Gospel away from our Island.
I believe that the S.G., sent his students to study at our College on his own initiative. At that time in Rabat there were other Orders that had internal studies, and yet Mons. De Piro those the College of St. Augustine. As far as I can remember it was Fr Mikiel Callus, a member of the Society, who would come to the College to enquire about the progress of the students. I also remember that the Prefect of studies was pleased with the level of studies of these students. Every speech day at the College the Society offered books to the College to be distributed among the students as prizes.
I do not remember that De Piro attended these activities, but there was always a representative of the Society. The students of the Society appeared to be enthusiastic about the missions. In fact, they often spoke about this argument.
7. “Everytime these students mentioned the S.G., referring to him as ‘the Padre’ we noticed that they had a deep respect for him … they were like good children when mentioning their father.” Do you remember what they said about him? For example, did they say if he lived with them, or if he simply went to see them? If he talked to them? If he lectured or preached to them? If he allowed enough time for them? If they had all the necessities (clothes, food)? Why did they call him ‘Padre’? How did you judge their great respect for him? As one deriving from love or from fear?
I do not know how the idea of calling the S.G., “Padre” originated. Among the other religious orders they were the only ones who called their superior with this title of ‘Padre’. We students were edified by the way they spoke about De Piro and how much they valued his words. Great was their submission to what he told them. They had great respect for him.
I do not know how to answer the rest.
8. “I also remember that Mons. De Piro had St. Joseph’s Institute in his care. He was completely dedicated to this. At that time he was well known for the great task he performed there.” Where was this Institute of St. Joseph? When you say “… in his care …”, do you mean that he was the director of the Institute? In case, do you know exactly what this work entailed? Do you know when and how he was appointed director, and why he was the one to be selected? Do you know if, besides St. Jpseph’s Institute, he was in charge of other Institutes? In case, which one/ones? Was there any Institute of which he was both the director and the founder? Do you know what was the situation of the institutes at the time of the S.G?
“He was well known for his great task ...” Can you give some details about this work?
“… he was well known …” By whom?
“He was completely dedicated to the Institute.” Can you say if this dedication was constant or if it changed from time to time?
I am referring to St. Joseph’s Institute at Hamrun. I do not know why Mons. De Piro was selected. The selection was made by Archbishop Caruana. De Piro was responsible for the administration of the Institute and the education of its children.
The S.G., had a share in the founding of the Institute and the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus of Nazareth, which is in Zejtun. Once, Fr. Tomlin, when Superior General of the Society of St Paul, sought these Sisters to help in the upkeep of the Convent of St. Agatha. He chose them because tltey have the same founder. These were his words.
At the request of Mons. Gonzi, Bishop of Gozo, the S.G., founded and opened the new Institute of St. Joseph at Ghajnsielem. The first director of the home was Fr. Michael Callus. I remember Fr. Michael telling me how on the occasion of the inauguration of St Joseph’s Home, Mons. De Piro was walking on the foor and it collapsed with him. Mons De Piro was not hurt; he remained calm and did not panic. It was an old house. I do not know how the S.G., had acquired it.
At that time the Institutes depended completely on charity and the person responsible for them was responsible to provide for the livedlihood of the children.
Mons. De Piro was well known for his great work for the Institutes. He was undefatigable in his work and the Institute made progress and could go on after his death.
9. “Besides his other tasks Mons. De Piro was also a member of the Maltese Senate.” “Besides his other tasks.” We have already mentioned the founding of the Society, the Institute and the Cathedral. Do you remember if he had other tasks whilst he was in the Senate? Do you know in what way he found himself in the Senate? Do you know how he performed his duty there? In this context you say that “this could have been an occasion for him to side with one party or another at that time. On the contrary De Piro never did this. No one ever criticized him about such an act.” Do you confirm this fact? Do you mean that the S.G., was attentive to be the friend of everyone even if he did not share their ideals? How do you know this?
He was careful not to fail in his duties as a member of the Senate where he represented the clergy. Probably he was elected by the priests to be a member of the Senate. He was so careful to perform his duties that, even on the night when he meant to sleep at St. Agatha’s for the first time, he remained present until the sitting of the Senate ende. In fact, as a result, he had no transport with which to return to Rabat. De Piro was also very careful in his role at the Senate not to side with any political party. In fact, when the question between Lord Strickland and the Church arose, De Piro could participate as a mediator and Strickland accepted him.
10. “This was the reason why he was instrumental to bring peace between Lord Strickland and the Maltese Church ... everyone was convinced that he was the mediator. Mons. Buhagiar, who at that time was the parish priest of Rabat, told me this.” Can you give more details about the mediation you mention? “… everyone was convinced ...” Who exactly? In what way did they show this conviction?
“It was he who with the prudence and influence he had even with important people ...” Can you expand on the prudence of the S.G? And in what way he influenced others? How do you know this?
You mention Mons. Buhagiar. Did he ever tell you other things about the S.G? Do you know if Mons. Buhagiar was intimate with the S.G? Besides the case of Strickland, do you know if the S.G., was involved in some other particular happenings in the political life of Malta?
Mons. Buhagiar gave me all the information I have about the question between Strickland and the Church. I cannot add anything else to what I have already said in my evidence. Mons. Buhagiar told me that it was Mons. De Piro who suggested to Lord Strickland that he should apologize and thus make peace with the Church. Strickland had accepted this suggestion. Mons Buhagiar was intimate with the S.G., and he had great respect for Mons. De Piro.
11. “I also remember that I went to the blessing of the foundation stone of St. Agatha. I remember that on that day Mons. De Piro was very happy ...” What exactly was St. Agatha? What was the project connected to it? Do you know how he obtained the site and if he had more particular difficulties in this respect?
‘On that day he was very happy ...” Do you remember how he showed this happiness? On ordinary days did he appear happy, or did he perhaps give the impression that he was sad, upset, concerned (we have already said above that he was much recollected).
“… he was surrounded by a large crowd of priests, people of high society, benefactors and many students and religious priests.” Who had invited all these?
“I remember that on that occasion a large number of people talked with admiration about this unique work that this priest of God had performed.” When you say “work” are you referring to the building you mention? What was the cause of this admiration? What did the people know at that time about the building? Were there perhaps among them monsignors, priests, relatives of the S.G? Do you remember exactly what they said? Do you remember if on that occasion the S.G., made a speech? If yes, do you remember what he said?
The blessing of the foundation stone of St. Agatha was performed by Archbishop Dom Mauro Caruana. Do you know how was the relationship between the S.G., and this Bishop? If they were good, how can you prove it? Do you know if at some time they became weaker?
At that time St. Agatha was a small chapel belonging to the parish of Rabat. De Piro made an agreement with the parishpriest with which the Society acquired the chapel and the members were to give certain services to the Parish Church. I had obtained this information from one of the parish priests of St. Paul. At St agatha De Piro wanted to build a convent for his Society. I do not know how he acquired the land adjoining the chapel. Probably it was the property of the De Piro family.
On the the feast of the foundation stone, the S.G., appeared very happy. However, as usual, he controlled himself in spite of his enthusiasm. Although he was surrounded by important people, he succeeded in entertaining everyone without exagerating. When one considers the many commitments the S.G., had, not only in the Church but also in civil life of the Island, we mast expect such persons to have been invited for this occasion.
When I say “work” I refer both to the building of the house and the Society that De Piro had founded. Everyone made these comments, the people in general and the clergy.
I have already mentioned the great esteem and respect Archbishop Catuana had for the S.G., besides the fact that the Archbishop always called him when he had some hard task; for some time he chose De Piro as his private secretary. I never heard that these relations became impaired.
12. “The devil tried to harass me, but I did not let him win.” You say that the S.G., told you these words when you went to visit the building of St. Agatha which was not finished yet. You also state that he had told you that the devil often tried to upset his plans, but he did not get discouraged. In a particular way you mention the first time he wanted to sleep at St. Agathas. On that occasion his plan was nearly upset because the parliamentary sitting lasted a long time and it was not possible for him to find transport. However, it was the Prime Minister himself who gave him a lift. Did you get to know why it was on that very day that the S.G., wanted to sleep at St. Agatha’s? You say that he was disappointed because he saw that he could not sleep there and the Prime Minister “… seeing him upset …” Can you elaborate on this disappointment and his being upset? Did the S.G., ever talk about the devil on other occasions? If yes, what would he say about him and how did he feel when talking about him? You say that the S.G., “ … did not get discouraged by the devil’s obstacles”. Did you ever hear more details about these obstacles, and in what way the S.G., remained couragious?
Did he, in such circumstances, refer to the plan and providence of God and the trust he had in him?
“We were convinced that he told us about this occurrence not out of self praise, but to teach us not to be discouraged by the devil’s ruses.” Did you ever hear anyone say that the S.G., loved to praise his own efforts?
“To teach us”. Did you ever hear him talk about some episodes to teach you a moral?
I do not know what the exact reason was. However, De Piro told us that he himself had fixed the date for that night when he was to sleep for the first time at St. Agatha’s where the members of the Society had already taken up residence. Only on that day did I hear him utter words against the devil. He told us to be on our guard against the ruses of the devil and he exhorted us to resist him.
The S.G., did not lose heart when facing difficulties; he was determined to go on, even when he saw members leaving the Society. He was convinced that that was what God wanted from him. There were some of his colleagues who adviced him not to pursue with the development of the Society; but De Piro did not lose heart. I obtained this information from Mons. A Buhagiar.
13. “Everytime we students met him and spoke to him we felt that, and we agreed about this, Mons De Piro was a saintly priest, a man of God. This was the impression not only of colleagues and myself; other priests said the same thing.” “… we felt, and agreed about this”. What did you perceive? “… we agreed among ouselves”. Do you mean that at times you discussed together the moral character of the S.G? In case, what else did you say?
“… was a saintly priest, a man of God.” What exactly did you mean? “… other priests said the same”. Do you remember exactly who they were? What did they say? Did the members of his Society refer to him as a saint? The laymen? Was he still regarded as a saint in the first years after his death? If yes, in what way? If not, why not? Do you think that today the S.G., enjoys the repute of a saint? What motivates this?
He was not given to small talk. He was collected, serious, absorbed in his duties, careful not to waste time. He was upright and sought unobtrusive work. He didn’t love honour and popularity. I remember that such comments were common among us students when we talked about him.
Our companions at Rabat regarded him as a man of God. In fact, they were glad to help the students of De Piro’s Society because in so doing they felt they were helping the work began by a saintly person.
Even the people in general regarded him as a good soul. This repute survived him. The repute of De Piro derived not only from his great work, but mostly from his virtues. Although in his lifetime the Society encountered a number of difficulties, it flourished after his death. I believe that after his death, the S.G., went before the Lord and interceded for the members of his Society.
14. In your information you do not say anything about the death and burial of the S.G. Do you remember when, where and how the S.G., died? Do you remember what was the reaction of the people at the news of his death? Did you go for the funeral? Do you remember any details about it? Do you remember where he was buried? Do you remember when his remains were transported to St. Agatha, Rabat, and, in case, how this transport was conducted?
Did you ever visit the S.G’s grave? Can you describe it? Would there be other visitors? What would they be doing? Would there be flowers, candles, ex voto?
What is your judgment about the saintliness of the S.G? Do you feel that he deserves the honour of the altars?
I did not take part in the S.G’s funeral. I remember people saying that De Piro died after he had conducted a procession in Hamrun. It is my impression that first he was buried at the Cathedral and later he was taken to St. Agatha’s. Neither do I remember the transport of the S.G’s remains.
Occasionally I visited the grave of the S.G. I agree that the S.G., deserves the honour of the altars, especially because he was a humble, active, quiet and recollected person.
15. Do you know anyone who is against this Cause of Beatification and Canonization? Do you know it there was ever anyone against it? In case, when, who and why?
I never heard anyone talk against this Cause.
16. Do you want to add, remove or change anything in your evidence?
I would like to add that Mons. De Piro named his Society after St. Paul precisely to emphasize the idea of the missionary commitment, since St. Paul is a great missionary. Moreover, I had heard that the S.G’s mother named him “my poor one” because he often asked her to help him financially and he gave away all she gave him. Also, I would like to add that the S.G., tried to understand people. Once Fr. Mikiel Callus confessed to me that when his work at St. Joseph’s Institute (Gozo) had tired him, he spoke frankly about it to the S.G., and asked De Piro to replace him. Mons. De Piro consented to his request.
The deposition was read out.
I have nothing to add, change or omit.
I swear to observe the secret accordingly.
Fr. Rafel Azzopardi O.S.A., witness;
Fr. Mario Grech, Delegatus Episcopalis;
Fr. Paul Gatt OP, Promotor Iustitiae;
Fr Frankie Sultana, Cancellarius.
Today, 9 January 1991, in the Hall of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of the Gozo Diocese, a sitting was held about the Cause indicated above in the presence of the Bishop’s Delegate, Rev. Mario Grech, Judicial Vicar, Fr. Paul Gatt O.P., Promotor Justitiae and the actuarius here undersigned.
The witness, Mr. George Pisani, was amditted to give his evidence.
I, George Pisani, son of the deceased Paul and Teresa née Calleja, was born on 6 May, 1909, in Victoria, Gozo. I am married to Rose, née Formosa. I reside at “Pisani”, Main Gate Str., Victoria. I am a man of letters and I practise the Catholic Religion.
1. You have come to give evidence in this Cause of Beatification and Canonization to the Servant of God (S.G) Mons. Guzeppi De Piro, founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul. What made you come to give evidence? Was there perhaps someone who suggested to you what evidence to give? You say that you did not know the S.G., directly. Do you mean that all you are going to say, you got to know from others? In case, from whom? Do you also mean that you had no patticular relation with the S.G., like for example, that you were related to him?
I have come to give evidence both because I was approached by the members of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, and because I always desired to do something to promote this case. What I am going to say is spontanious; no one has told me what evidence to give.
I present the following ‘note’ containing information about the S.G., Mons. G. De Piro.
“I do not remember Mons. De Piro directly and personally, but at home this Monsignor was very often mentioned. The reason was that my mother thought highly of him; there was almost a cult for him because she knew how De Piro dedicated his life to neighbourly charity, especially to the care of children, especially those of the Institutes of St. Joseph in Malta and Gozo.
For some reason or other, which I no longer remember, it happened that on the day of Mons. Be Piro’s funeral my parents and I were in Malta. On that day my mother wished to visit the Addolorata Cemetery and I went with her. Unexpectedly we found that there was the funeral of Mons. De Piro. I was struck by the cortege, the presence of children and other people, who were numerous. Because of this, when, after the funeral, I was back in Gozo, I felt the need to put to paper the emotions I felt during the funeral. It was at that time that the poem came out naturally and spontaneously more from my heart than from my mind. It was the poem about Mons. De Piro “On the Death of Mons. De Piro (at the Addolorata Cemetery)”. I must say that this poem came out naturally like the water that springs out from the rocks of the plains.
This poem was included in the first volume of my poems, entitled “L-Ghid taz-Zoghzija.’ (The feast of youth). It has been read by thousants of students, and others. Besides, at home, Mons. De Piro was well known by other people in Gozo. It was well known that he came from a noble family. He had many beautiful gifts as well as a strong intellect, not to mention his great goodness. He utilised all this to help the unfortunate children, whom the world abandoned”.
2. In the written information you have already submitted, you say that the S.G., belonged to a noble family. First of all, what exactly do you mean by this? Perhaps he came from a wealthy family? In case, in what did the wealth of this family consist? Perhaps also that this family was influential in this Country? In case, how? Do you know details about the S.G’s parents and siblings? Who were they? Where did they live? What were their activities in society? Do you know something about the relations between the members of this family?
I know that the S.G., belonged to a noble family, but I have no more information about his upbringing and his family?
3. “... at home the Monsignor was often mentioned. This was due to the fact that my mother had a high opinion of him, in fact, almost veneration for him.”
When you say “… was often mentioned …”, what exactly do you mean? Do you still remember what started the conversation about the S.G., in your family? And why had your mother this high opinion of him? Perhaps because your mother had some particular contact with the S.G., or his work? Perhaps because at some time she benefitted from him? “… almost veneration for him.” What exactly do you mean?
Do you know how the S.G., was regarded by other Gozitans, in particular by members of the clergy and the authorities?
My mother was very demonstrative and often talked about Mons. De Piro. She was a good soul and so she used every occasion to talk to us about good people. She presented the S.G., to us as a good priest, charitable, exemplary and who did a lot of good. My mother was convinced of Mons. De Piro’s saintly reputation. I do not know how my mother got to know the Monsignor. Most probably she heard other people talk about him. In short, with what she used to tell us, my mother instilled in me a sense of veneration to the S.G. My mother really regarded him as a saint.
In my opinion, the Gozitans had great respect for the Monsignor because what he was doing was of great benefit to the Gozitan Society. I am referring to the service De Piro was performing at St. Joseph’s Institute, Ghajnsielem.
4. “… because she knew how De Piro dedicated his life to the charity of neighbours.” Immediately after this, you mention the S.G’s work in the children’s institutes. Besides this work, do you have in mind some other kind of charity which the S.G., practised among neighbours? If yes, in what did it consist? Perhaps he gave some money? In case, to whom, and what criteria did he have? Perhaps he helped people to find work? Perhaps he gave counsel? Perhaps he also went in to solve family problems? In case, how do you know all this? If from your mother, do you know how she obtained this information? Perhaps because he himself talked about his work? Perhaps because in some of his sermons he exhorted people for charity?
I remember very well that my mother used to mention to us the virtues and good qualities of Mons De Piro, but I do not remember that she ever talked about his activities. Probably she did this, but today I do not remember.
5. “...especially as regards care for the children. And especially as regards the Institutes of St. Joseph in Malta and Gozo.” What was the exact relationship between the S.G., and the Institutes you mention? If it was that of directorship, do you know exactly what this work entailed? Do you think it was part of his work to see that the children always had food and clothes, and a decent place to live in? Do you know if the S.G., was also responsible for the education of the children of the Institutes? Do you know the number of children in the Institutes and what type of children they were? As regards the Gozo Institute, do you know if it was started by the S.G? In case, do you know details about the opining of this Institute? Did you ever have chance to talk to someone who belonged to the Institute/s at the time when the S.G., was director? If yes, who? In case, what did they/he have to say about the S.G’s contribution to the Institutes? Do you know how the Institutes were financed at that time? If they depended totally on the charity of people, do you know what the S.G., did to have enough money for the Institutes? Did he perhaps meet the expenses out of his own pocket or from his family? In case, do you know if this got him into conflict with the members of his family? Perhaps he also organized some kind of charitable campaign in favour of the Institutes? In case, in what way? Did he perhaps send some printed appeals? Or did he visit the parishes? Or did he perhaps organise come groups to help him? How do you know all this?
Do you know if, besides the Institutes you mention, the S.G., had some other Institutes under his care?
Do you know how he became director of the Institutes? You connect this work with his charity for the needy. Why do you connect them? Perhaps because he could in fact do some other more prestigious work but he chose this work? Do you know if, in fact, he was ever offered to do some other work in the Church? In case, what was it? How do you know this? Do you know if as director of the Institutes he had direct contact with the children, or if he did all the work “from his office”? How do you know this?
I believe that the children of St. Joseph’s Institute, of Ghajnsielem, were called “the children of De Piro”. However, I do not know exactly what connection De Piro had with this Home.
Mons. De Piro could have done some other work, perhaps of greater prestige, but his work among the orphans is evidence of the S.G’s altruism.
As regards the rest of the questions I do not know any more details.
6. “… on that very day of De Piro’s funeral …” Do you remember how and when the S.G., died? You say that on the day of the funeral you were in Malta. Was there news in Malta of his death? Was there some kind of mourning held in some part of Malta? When you returned to Gozo did you hear anything about him? Was anything reported about him in the newspapers? In case, in which ones? What were these reports? “There (at the Addolorata Cemetery) ... there was being held the funeral of Mons. De Piro.” Do you mean that the S.G., was buried in this cemetery? If yes, why was he buried there? Do you know if he is still buried there? If not, do you know were he is now? Do you know when he was transferred, where he was taken, and for what reason this transfer took place? As regards the funeral you also mention the presence of children and other people “… who were numerous.” Who were these children? Perhaps those of the Institutes which he directed? As regards the other people, do you remember if, among them, there were persons of high rank in the Maltese society? Do you know if there were also members of the clergy and religious?
You say you were struck “not a little” by this fact. What exactly was it that struck you, the number of people present? Or perhaps the atmosphere created by them? If the latter, what was the atmospher at the funeral?
On the day of the S.G’s funeral we happened to be at the Addolorata Cemetery because my mother wished to pay a visit to the cemetery. It was at that time that we saw the funeral cortege and we got to know that it was Mons. De Piro’s. I guess that Mons. De Piro is still buried in this cemetery. I never went to visit his grave.
It was an “imposing” funeral. I was most struck by the great number of children of the Institutes who were present. It was an atmosphere of sorrow and I was so much impressed by it that when I returned to Gozo I wrote the poem.
7. In your information you make no reference to the S.G., as founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul. Does this mean that you have no information about this? Could it be the case that at sometime or other you could have come in contact with some of the first members of this Society who could have spoken with you about the S.G?
Karmenu Vassallo, who had been a member of the Society of St. Paul, was my friend but we never had the occasion to talk about the Society and De Piro’s work of foundation.
8. “Because of this, when the funeral came to an end and I returned to Gozo, I felt the need to express on paper the emotions I felt at the time of the funeral … it was at that time that the poem on Mons. De Piro came out spontaniously.” First of all do you mean to say that you remained at the cemetry till the end of the funeral, although originally you did not go to the cemetery with the intention of the funeral? If yes, did you do this out of respect for the S.G., or perhaps because you were caught in the crowd and you couldn’t do otherwise?
In your poem “On the death of Mons. De Piro” you refer to the S.G., as “their father” (of the children of the Institute). What made you refer to the S.G., in this way?
“This poem was included in the first book of my poems …” Did you yourself make this collection of poems? If yes, did you include all the poems you had written up to that time, or did you perhaps make a selection? If the latter, why did you include also the poem about the S.G? If it wasn’t you who made the selection, who then was it? Why did he/she include the poem mentioned?
You say that to date this poem “… has been read by thousands of students, and other people.” Was there ever anyone who through it, got interested in the S.G., and asked you for more information about him? If yes, were they many? Who were they?
We remained there for a considerable time and watched all the funeral. In the poem, I called the S.G., “father” because in his work in the Institutes, De Piro had assumed the role of father of those children who had lost their natural father.
It was Prof. J. Aquilina who took the initiative to collect all the poems I had written and print them in a book entitled “L-Ghid taz-Zghozija” which was later used as a textbook in the secondary schools, as well as for those who were sitting for the Matriculation Examination.
I had published the poem on De Piro for the first time in “Lehen il-Malti”, a short time after the S.G’s death. I do not think that there were other poems written to commemorate De Piro’s death.
9. You state that the S.G., “… was enriched with many beautiful gifts.” Can you mention these gifts? How do you know this?
“… and also a powerful intellect…” What exactly do you mean by this, and how did you reach this conclusion? Perhaps because of the work he accomplished in the Institutes? Perhaps because he was called to solve great difficulties. In case, do you know of what nature, and who was involvedin them? “… together with great goodness.” What do you mean by “goodness”? Perhaps you are referring to the charity which you have already mentioned, or perhaps because of something else? Do you regard the S.G., as a saint? In case, for what reason do you describe him as such?
To form a children’s Institute one needed a certain organizing ability and instruction. These were qualities that adorned the S.G. He was intelligent. He had a strong civic sense when he dedicated his life to helping orphan children, because at the same time he was helping the Maltese society. Also, the fact that he gave his Society a missionary scope shows how much he was a man of charity, because through it he wanted to spread the faith among those who did not yet have this precious gift.
Without any hesitation I repeat that I am convinced that Mons. De Piro should be given the honour of the altars, chiefly because in his lifetime he never thought of himself but only to help his neighbour, both materially and spiritually.
The deposition was read.
I have nothing to add, delete, or change.
Gorg Pisani, witness;
Fr. Mario Grech, Delegatus Episcopalis;
Fr. Paul Gatt O.P.,Promotor Iustitiae;
Fr. Frankie Sultana, Cancellarius.
Note of the Tribunal.
The witness asked the Tribunal to excempt him from the oath whilst ascertaining that his evidence was true. The Tribunal knows the witness personally; he is well known for his integrity. Therefore the Tribunal accepted his request, after hearing the advice of the Promotor Iustitiae.
Fr. Frankie Sultana, Cancellarius.