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Fri, May 11, 2007
Eurovision semi-final
Olivia Lewis eliminated
- as reported by the Times...

A morose mood hung over the Maltese in Helsinki last night as Olivia Lewis failed to make it among the top 10 in the semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, despite topping a prediction poll of nearly 5,000 fans and giving a top performance. This will be the first time Malta will not be among the 24 countries competing in tomorrow's final contest, since the island started participating, on and off, in 1971.

After last year's disappointing result in Greece, where Malta managed to garner only one solitary point, Olivia Lewis's presence at the final was always in the balance and many were last night saying Malta and Denmark's Drama Queen had been cheated of their placing.

Iceland's ageing rocker Eiríkur Hauksson who sang Valentine Love, another favourite, also failed to place, together with Switzerland's Vampires Are Alive, which had been one of the top songs with betting companies.

Yesterday's competition was extremely tough and many were saying that the songs in the semi-final were of a higher level than those in the final, which meant the hurdle was doubly hard.

Ironically, Malta topped the BigPoll prediction, which closed yesterday evening after 4,875 fans across the globe cast their vote, with 295 points, followed by Turkey (294 points) and Serbia (263).

However, predictions are what they are, and the results are not always a hard and fast guide. In 2005, Selma and Glennis Grace were both predicted to make the final, as was Kate Ryan last year, but all three failed at the semi-final hurdle.

It has been a nerve-wrecking week of extreme reactions in Helsinki, but yesterday two websites had nothing but good words to say about Olivia Lewis's performance: The www.esctoday.com said it was "excellent, just like in the rehearsals... The song was warmly received by the crowd, a sign that Olivia could get to the final with flying colours"; while Oikotimes.com said that, "besides the irrelevant choreography... Olivia gave a very good performance."

Maltasong chairman Robert Abela was not in a position to comment before going to print, still dumbstruck at the result. Olivia Lewis, who has been competing to make it to the Eurovision stage for the past 11 years, was also too shattered to comment, completely speechless at the outcome.

Former chairman Norman Hamilton had one comment to make in the light of yesterday's results: "It is amply clear that this was a bloc vote, with the former communist countries all showing solidarity with one another".

The names of the 10 countries, chosen by televoters from all 42 countries, were brought on stage in sealed envelopes and picked at random by the Finnish presenters Jaana Pelkonen and Mikko Leppilampi. These are: Belarus, FYR Macedonia, Slovenia, Hungary, Georgia, Latvia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Moldova.

The ranking of the 10 countries was not announced not to prejudice the public vote during the final. The actual scores will remain a secret until after tomorrow's show.

Hamilton Travel made this coverage possible.

 Ariadne Massa in Helsinki

Thu, April 5, 2007
Lm12m project to restore bastions, fortifications - as reported by the Times...

Ninu Zammit visiting the Vittoriosa bastions.

The government is planning to invest over Lm12 million (€30 million) in the restoration of bastions and fortifications and other heritage buildings with the help of structural funds from the European Union, Resources and Infrastructure Minister Ninu Zammit said.

He was speaking during a visit to the bastions at the entrance to Vittoriosa where the final phase of restoration is in progress.

The bastions, which date back to 1530, were damaged in the Great Siege but were repaired and extended by the Knights.

Mr Zammit said the bastions had sustained structural damage during World War II and also due to neglect and lack of maintenance over the last century. Works will include the rehabilitation of a ditch, to transform it into a place for recreation, and the walkway linking Cospicua Wharf to Vittoriosa and Kalkara.

Mr Zammit said such restoration work is not only confined to Cottonera but includes Mdina, Valletta and the Cittadella, in Gozo.

A call for tenders is to be issued soon for more restoration works, he said.


Thu, April 5, 2007
St John's Co-Cathedral goes online...

Ninu Zammit visiting the Vittoriosa bastions.

St John's Co-Cathedral, in Valletta, has just launched its official website, packed with information and images of the building and its artefacts.

The website includes practical information for those planning to visit the national monument as well as times of religious services and the latest news and events. There is also information on the history of St John's and on the Knights that built it, the works of art housed within and the restoration projects undertaken by the St John's Co-Cathedral Foundation.

The website was developed by Media Consulta, Malta.



Tue, March 6, 2007
Damaged crucifix restored- as reported by the Times...

The restored mother-of-pearl crucifix at the St Mary of Jesus church (Ta' Giezu) in Valletta. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

The 200-year-old crucifix that was badly damaged when it was pushed off the altar at St Mary of Jesus church (Ta' Giezu) in Valletta, last April, was put back in its place on Saturday after restoration. A foreign man had entered the church while Fr George Aquilina was saying Mass, climbed the steps behind the altar and dislodged the antique crucifix.

The mother-of-pearl crucifix, a masterpiece, was broken into several pieces. It is one of the earliest examples of papier-mâché works on the island, made by Franciscan minors in Jerusalem.

The restoration was entrusted to Fr Charles Vella, who studied art and restoration in Italy, and sponsored by Bank of Valletta.

Fr Vella reconstructed both the crucifix and the cross. The body has been re-built on a stainless steel frame. Materials traditionally applied in such cases, such as rabbit glue and gesso di Bologna, have been used.

Missing parts of the crucifix have been filled and touched up, while pieces of mother-of-pearl have been replaced by wax on a fibreglass net, that produces a similar effect because it is translucent.

"Every intervention is reversible, which is an important process in restoration. So if better materials become available, my work would not have damaged the original," Fr Vella said.

A 33-year-old foreigner had been charged in connection with the incident but was declared to be in a state of insanity at the time of the act.

Natalino Fenech


Sat, February 24, 2007
Dun Gorg to be declared saint in June
- as reported by the Times...

Pope Benedict XVI attends a meeting for the canonisation of five saints, including Dun Gorg, at the Vatican yesterday.

Catholic Malta will finally be blessed with its first saint on June 3 when Dun Gorg Preca will be canonised, together with three other Blesseds, during a ceremony at the Vatican, in Rome.

The declaration was made by Pope Benedict XVI during a solemn 45-minute meeting at the Vatican's 15th century Sala del Concistorio yesterday.

Dun Gorg, who set up the MUSEUM, the Society of Christian Doctrine, will be canonised on the same day as Simone da Lipnica, Carlo di Sant'Andrea and Maria Eugenia di Gesù. The canonisation of Antonio di Sant'Anna will take place on May 11 in Brazil, to coincide with the Pope's visit, Mgr Charles Scicluna, the postulator in the cause of Dun Gorg said.

"It was a dignified ceremony in the Sala del Concistorio, which is adorned with Flemish tapestries and a wood ceiling inlaid with gold," Mgr Scicluna said, describing the moment. The meeting of the Congregation For Sainthood Causes, under the leadership of Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, started at 11 a.m. with hymns, three psalms and reading from the scriptures in Latin.

After this, Cardinal Saraiva Martins read a short biography of each of the five individuals proposed for sainthood, starting with Dun Gorg.

"Among other things, he quoted a memorable piece from Pope John Paul II's speech during his visit to Malta in May 2001 when he said: 'Blessed George was a man of faith, an apostle of faith, and after St Paul, the second father of the Maltese faith'," Mgr Scicluna said when contacted by The Times in Rome.

After the biographies, Pope Benedict XVI was informed of the cardinals' voting which had been sent to the Holy See over the past days. He announced that the cardinals had agreed that the five should be canonised.

"At this moment he stopped and asked whether the cardinals - there were about 70 present in all - wanted to make any further comments or objections. There was absolute silence. The Pope then smiled and decreed by his papal authority that all five should be canonised. There were smiles but no clapping... it was a very solemn ceremony," Mgr Scicluna said.

Born in Valletta on February 12, 1880, Dun Gorg was the seventh of nine children in a deeply religious family. He set up the MUSEUM in a small room at Hamrun. The society has centres in Australia, Sudan, Kenya, Peru, London and Albania. The acronym MUSEUM stands for the Latin words Magister Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus - "Master, may the whole world follow the Gospel!".

The decision to canonise Dun Gorg is based on two miracles.

The first happened on February 3, 1964, when Charles Zammit Endrich's detached retina healed after he placed a relic of Dun Gorg under his pillow.

More recently, in 2001, a baby boy who developed severe liver complications and needed a liver transplant to survive, made a full recovery after fervent prayers were made to Dun Gorg and a glove used in his exhumation was placed on the child.

Present in Rome to receive the news was a delegation made up of 22 people led by Archbishop Emeritus Mgr Joseph Mercieca and Gozo Bishop Mgr Mario Grech. Among them was Judicial Vicar Mgr Arthur Said Pullicino, the Archbishop's ecclesiastical delegate Mgr Lawrence Gatt, vice-postulator Joseph Fenech, the MUSEUM's superior general Victor Delicata and the superior general for the female section Phyllis Falzon, as well as their counsels and priests.

Ariadne Massa