Cover photo: Left: The Franciscan monastery in Valletta, Right: A man loading the books onto a truck (Photo: TVM)
Hundreds of old books which belonged to the Franciscan monastery in Valletta were discarded in a truck yesterday, prompting Heritage Malta to take action to save them.
TVM reported that a citizen had first spotted the books in a truck in Merchant Street and, after filming it, asked the driver whether he can save some of them. However, the driver told him to mind his own business and drove off, leaving a trail of papers flying out of the truck.
After the truck was found in Birkirkara, the government intervened and handed the books to Heritage Malta for safekeeping.
Nirringrazzja lill-Onor Ministru Owen Bonnici li qed jghin biex il-Kotba jinzammu minn Heritage Malta. Grazzi wkoll lill-Provincjal. Kotba antiki b'valur storiku mormija ġo trakk fil-Belt Valletta – TVM https://t.co/lmrQgPuGGY
— Bishop CJ Scicluna (@BishopScicluna) September 3, 2019
After finding out about the incident, Alessandro Dee Crespo, Chancellor of the Regional Tribunal of Second Instance at the Curia, informed Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who instantly agreed that the books must be saved. The Archbishop informed Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, who in turn instructed Heritage Malta to save the books.
Franciscan Provincial Minister Fr. Richard Stanley Grech played down the incident, telling Times of Malta that the monetary value of the books didn’t exceed €20 and that restoring them would have been too expensive.
“Moreover, keeping them in the library would endanger the rest of the books,” he said. “We made sure that we have copies of most of the books which are in better condition than the ones that were to be moved elsewhere.”
Dee Crespo responded by accusing the Provincial Grech of “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”.
“The value of such old books, “antique” – by his own admission – does not lie in what they are worth in monetary terms, dear Reverend Provincial,” she said. “Their value lies in their provenance, the notes in the margins, their usage along the years. Such books belong to the friary, they are part of the fabric of the building, of the lives of the friars. Dumping them on a truck, higgledy-piggeldy, leaving them languishing overnight in a street in Birkirkara, does not look like you were planning on relocating them.”
“The Reverend Provincial belongs to one of the most intellectual Orders in the history of the Church. It contributed to the development of culture, theology, to the history of the Universal Church. His confrère was the late Patri Gorg Aquilina, was one of the greatest Church historians. He must be rolling in his grave to see such an aberration, in words and actions! This is cultural terrorism.”
“How sad to see such patrimony dismissed so nonchalantly. Thank God there are still people who care.”
“I would do what I did over and over. How many trucks have you got, Father? I will chase them all. And oh one last word. When in a hole stop digging.”