As the Catholic Church on the Rock prepares to celebrate the centenary of the Diocese of Gibraltar in November this year, Bishop Charles Caruana yesterday announced the special congress for March on Our Lady of Europe.

The Bishop, together with Mgr. Charles Azzopardi, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, spoke of this International Marian Congress -"Mary, a Sign of Christian identity"- which will look at all aspects including religion, anthropology, history and art. The conference, the first of its kind on the Rock, will see representation from many of the churches in Southern Spain, and from Italy. The Congress will take place 5 to 7 March this year at the Retreat Centre. Also present at yesterday’s press conference held at the Cathedral was, Jesus Lopez Alfonso from Spain (in the picture), who is helping to co-ordinate the event.

Bishop Caruana, who stressed it was all very positive, said he was pleased that the event was taking place as it was always good to open up dialogue and debate. As well as one of the events for the centenary, he said, it would also serve as a continuation of the celebrations last year of the 700 years of devotion to Our Lady.

Both the anniversary and the centenary of this diocese, he believed, would undoubtedly contribute to the unity of Christians around the Virgin Mary and the valued enhancement of the Christian roots of the West. Monsignor Azzopardi said the findings of the congress would most probably be published. He further explained that the objective of this congress was to disseminate the importance of Marian devotion to this image through its history, the history and artistic legacy that has developed round it, and that it should become the centre of studies of the figure of the Virgin Mary, from the standpoint of faith, art, history or anthropology.

The celebrations this year will also see the consecration of St Theresa’s Church some time in October. The annual meeting in September of the Marian Network which will also be held in Gibraltar as part of the Centenary celebrations, and see the rectors of all the different network shrines gather on the Rock for the first time, including the participation of the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes.

The week of celebrations in November will see a Mass being held at the Tercentenary Hall, with each parish holding its own unique event. Parishes will also organize events throughout the year.

At the congress in March a new cast of clay -a replica of the Statue of Our Lady of Lourdes- will receive a special blessing. Monsignor Azzopardi said replicas of the statue would continue to be sent around the world to different communities. This year in particular he said it was expected that a replica would be taken to Jamaica, as had been the intention over a number of years, especially because of the link between Gibraltar during WWII, and how the Gibraltar evacuees had been received there in the 1940s. He also announced that 1,000 10 inch replica statues of Our Lady of Europe had already sold locally.


Alice Mascarenhas. Diario "Gibraltar Chronicle". 21-01-2010.


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