A heated controversy is underway on the paintings at the Ħal Kirkop church. This followed an announcement by the parish priest, after the feast of St Joseph last month, that the Curia approved that the Our Lady of Sorrows painting above one of the altars is removed and changed with a painting of St Joseph. The decision created divergences especially between the two band societies: L-Għaqda Mużikali San Leonardu and Soċjetà Mużikali San Ġużepp.
The Our Lady of Sorrows painting is a Francesco Zahra work, painted in the 18th Century.
During the St Joseph Feast at Ħal Kirkop last month, parish priest Fr Martin Cardona announced the Curia’s approval for the painting to be removed and instead a new painting of St Joseph is placed. Initially, it was announced that the Zahra painting will be placed at the Lunzjata chapel in the same locality.
The decision aroused different reactions and opinions by Ħal Kirkop residents. It was welcomed with joy by the Soċjeta Mużikali San Ġużepp and the St Joseph Fraternity, while an angry reaction was expressed by the Għaqda Mużikali San Leonardu.
The San Anard club secretary, Kenneth Cassar, told TVM that this is not a pique issue and his society has nothing against the St Joseph Fraternity or against their request of having a painting of St Joseph.
“This shouldn’t replace a historic painting. This is being expressed by all charters and conventions of restoration which insist that a work of art remains in its historic context. The moment we decide to remove it from its place, we are losing the work of art’s historic value. What surprises us is that it has the approval of Curia’s commissions whose work, among others, is to safeguard our religious heritage. The Parish priest is also considering that, in order for the Our Lady of Sorrows painting to remain in the church, he is ready to remove another historic painting to take its place – therefore instead of one, we have two mistakes”.
Mr Cassar added that arts professionals, including from the University’s Arts History department, agree with the position that the painting should not be removed from its place.
On the other hand, the Soċjetà Mużikali San Ġużepp Ħal Kirkop
refused to comment, however it issued a statement saying that the altar in question was established with Pope Leo XIII decree and the emblem of St Joseph Fraternity is printed on the marble. It said that money was paid at the beginning of the previous century so that a new painting of St Joseph is placed on the same altar.
The society added that the Fraternity supported the proposal that the Our Lady of Sorrows painting will have an alternative place in the same church so that its historic contest and devotion are preserved. The Fraternity feels that, with the project, the parish will increase its artistic works and expressed the wish that the St Leonard feast next week is celebrated in a serene way.
When TVM requested the comments of parish priest Fr Martin Cardona, he referred us to the Curia, which said that for now it will not be commenting on the case.