Suggests pilgrimage in remembrance of those who died of the plague, once Covid-19 passes

Between 1813 and 1837 Malta experienced the horrifying effects of two pandemics: the plague and cholera, which caused the deaths of thousands. The memory of these two occasions is recalled in a number of localities, among which the picturesque village of Kalkara, where a man with a special devotion to the Souls of Wied Għammieq who died during the cholera epidemic has expressed a wish for a pilgrimage to be held in Kalkara.

This is not the first time the Maltese have endured the sufferings of infective diseases. In 1813 Malta had been hit by the plague which accounted for 4,500 victims, being nearly five per cent of the population of those days.

Researcher Fiona Vella explained to Television Malta that despite precautions ordered by the authorities, the plague still spread.

“Whatever steps are taken, someone always manages to slip under the radar. In fact, this is how the 1813 plague had started, as a vessel carrying the plague virus had entered the harbour and was supposed to have been burnt. The burning was delayed, someone went on board, and the plague spread all over Malta as a result.”

Items relating to the plague include, in the Ħaż-Żabbar Sanctuary museum, the wooden covered cart used to transport plague victims. 24 years later, Malta suffered yet another pandemic, cholera, which started in Floriana and spread like wildfire.

It is said that cholera victims were sometimes even buried alive in the Wied Għammieq cemetery at Kalkara. Mrs Vella explains that as the Maltese were dying in large numbers, the victims were being buried in secluded areas, including at the boundary of Kalkara.

“Rumour has it that in the haste prevalent at the time, it was not always realised that some cholera victims might not have died, and these would be buried along with the rest, even whilst shouting for help.”

To remember these victims and the black episodes of these infectious diseases, a pilgrimage is organised every year for the souls at Wied Għammieq. Toni Balzan, a devotee of these forgotten souls, told Television Malta he visits the cemetery every day as part of a votive promise.

“I felt I had to do this on behalf of all the people of Kalkara so that when all this is over, we will again walk in pilgrimage from the church to this cemetery and pray for everything to return to normal.”

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