A marble plaque commemorating the baptism of Gozitan Cardinal Mario Grech that was affixed to the Qala Parish Church and blessed by the 66-year-old Cardinal earlier this month required permits that were not sought by the church authorities.
The Shift is informed that neither the Planning Authority nor the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, which needs to approve any such alteration to a Grade 1 scheduled building, were consulted before the plaque was installed.
A Planning Authority spokesperson downplayed the gaffe by explaining that the plaque is less than a metre and it did not require a Development Notification Order (DNO).
While the Cardinal’s plaque is clearly larger than one metre, the same law the PA cited states that “the erection, construction, or installation of monuments and art installations within public open spaces, excluding dismantling or relocation, not in ODZ and provided that where the highway boundary or a pavement are affected the development is subject to prior written authorisation by Transport Malta and in all circumstances subject to prior authorisation by the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts”.
The Shift confirmed that authorisation was not obtained from the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, and the PA said that it is now “in contact with the Qala parish administration to confirm that the criteria listed in Class 4 of the DNO are being followed”.
Cardinal Grech informed his followers of the plaque’s significance in a social media post. He also boasted that the Pope is giving much more importance to the Conference of Bishops (Synod) in which he works “than to any other department of the Roman Curia”.
Before being promoted to Cardinal, Mario Grech served for years as the Bishop of Gozo.
During his time, the Gozo Curia made headlines for selling off some of the main properties from its vast real estate portfolio and for other deals struck between the Gozo Curia and the government after 2013.
One major deal was brokered between Cardinal Grech and then Minster Anton Refalo for a former youth centre in Ghajnsielem to be converted by the government into an old peoples’ home.
Under Grech’s supervision, several other church properties were leased to the government, including properties in Fontana, Victoria and Ghajnsielem. The government is also leasing long-term beds for the elderly from church homes, a practice that is costing taxpayers millions of euros a year.