12 February 1880|
|Died||26 July 1962
Santa Venera, Malta
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||9 May 2001, Floriana, Malta by Pope John Paul II|
|Canonized||3 June 2007, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI|
Saint George Preca (in Maltese: Ġorġ Preca) (12 February 1880 – 26 July 1962) was a Maltese Roman Catholic priest and the founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine as well as a Third Order Carmelite. He is known as "Dun Ġorġ" in Maltese and Pope John Paul II dubbed him as the "Second Apostle of Malta". Preca was a popular and sought-after preacher and confessor and his work in instructing others in catechism earned him praise though was once ordered to cease his activities due to it being unheard of on the island at that time. He dedicated himself to his flock and devoted himself to proper religious education while his activism earned him praise and Pope Pius XII - in 1952 - titled him as a Monsignor despite his uneasiness about it. He was a popular figure on the island and spent hours in the confessional to be closer with his people. He had assumed the religious name of "Franco" after becoming a Secular Carmelite.
In 1957 he had composed five new mysteries for the rosary for his followers which he had referred to as the "Mysteries of Light" and these were almost identical to the five Luminous Mysteries that John Paul II had proposed in 2002 though it is not known whether this had influenced the pope's choices. A 2010 book made the claim that Preca was a repressed homosexual who nevertheless lived a chaste life.
Preca's sainthood cause opened on 13 March 1975 under Pope Paul VI and he became titled as a Servant of God while John Paul II named him as Venerable upon confirmation of his heroic virtue on 28 June 1999; the confirmation of one miracle allowed for John Paul II to preside over the beatification in Malta in mid-2001 while the confirmation of another allowed Pope Benedict XVI to canonize him in mid-2007 in Saint Peter's Square.
George Preca was born on 12 February 1880 as the seventh of nine children to Vincent Preca and Nathalie Ceravolo; he had three brothers and five sisters. His father was both a merchant and a health inspector. The first Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Howard was a close friend to his parents for he was the husband of his mother's cousin. He received his baptism on 17 February 1880 in the Basilica of Saint Dominic from Father Vincent Cousin. Preca was a frail child due to a range of illnesses he had and in 1885 almost drowned in the harbor though boatmen rescued him. In 1886, he relocated with his parents and siblings to Ħamrun. He received both his First Communion at some stage in his childhood and then his Confirmation on 2 August 1888 in the parish church of Saint Cajetan from Bishop Anton Maria Buhagiar.
In 1897 he walked along the Maglio Gardens in Floriana and there met one of his professors Father Ercole Mompalao who encouraged his vocation. Preca first studied at the state-owned school before he commenced his studies for the priesthood on the main island; he had studied Latin and English but also studied Italian and received a prize in handwriting. During his studies, Preca developed a severe ailment in his lungs which almost killed him just months prior to his ordination. His recovery is attributed to the intercession of Saint Joseph, however the remaining consequence of the illness was impairment to his lung. On 8 April 1905 his confessor Aloysius Galea died and Preca would often recount that not long after Galea appeared to him and encouraged his call to the priesthood. In his studies he began to write a rule in Latin for use in a planned religious movement for permanent deacons that he wished to establish but this desire subsided over time though the idea remained much on Preca's mind but he altered the idea after being ordained. Preca received his ordination to the priesthood alongside thirteen others on 22 December 1906 from Bishop Pietro Pace and he celebrated his first Mass on 25 December - Christmas - at the Saint Cajetan parish church in Ħamrun. But for a number of weeks following his ordination he never left his home unless he went to celebrate Mass and then returned home for silent reflection.
He began to teach along the waterfront catechism to the people including the roughest male workers and began to gather male catechists including the Servant of God Ewgenju Borg. In late January 1907 he invited people to a spiritual conference on 2 February at the Ta' Nuzzo church though the group later rented a place at 6 Fra Diegu Street. He founded his new religious movement on 7 March 1907 at Ħamrun at the first meeting of the group. But educating the working-class was considered to be a radical thing and was even accused of being insane while being ordered in 1909 to shut down his new institute leaving him broken-hearted. But there soon began an uproar on the part of parish priests who demanded the order to cease the order be rescinded and allow Preca to continue his work. In 1910 he had a powerful experience of the Child Jesus one morning as he passed the Marsa Cross when a child aged twelve pushed a cart with a bag of manure. He noticed Preca and shouted: "Lend me a hand!" to which Preca aided him though as he placed his hands on the cart he felt profound spiritual calmness and understood that he had encountered Jesus Christ.
On 12 April 1932 his movement received diocesan approval from Bishop Maurus Caruana. Preca became a Third Order Carmelite after being admitted on 21 July 1918 and having made his profession on 26 September 1919 with the new religious name of "Franco". Throughout his pastoral mission he published about 150 leaflets or books and was a popular preacher and sought-after confessor. Preca was named as a Monsignor after Pope Pius XII - on 2 October 1952 - named him a Privy Chamberlain much to his mortification and he held this title until the pope died in 1958. He never wore the vestments that the title entailed and nor did he ever claim the official document from the archbishop's office.
Preca died in the evening of 26 July 1962; his funeral on 28 July was one of the largest funerals ever held in Malta and Bishop Emanuel Galea presided over it at the Saint Cajetan church. The Prime Minister George Borg Olivier was present at the funeral. His remains were exhumed on 7 July 2000 and were found to have been in an exceptional state of preservation despite the presence of noticeable decomposition.
The sainthood process opened on 13 March 1975 under Pope Paul VI and he became titled as a Servant of God after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued the official "nihil obstat" to the cause. Mikiel Gonzi issued the decree on 24 June 1975 that would pave the path for a diocesan investigation to begin and he opened the cognitional process in Malta on 25 February 1976 that ran until its solemn closure later on 23 June 1988 under Joseph Mercieca. The C.C.S. validated this process in Rome on 19 June 1992 and the postulation later submitted the Positio to the C.C.S. for assessment in 1998. The congress of six theologians first approved the cause on 16 March 1999 while the cardinal and bishop members of the C.C.S. likewise voted in approval of the cause on 1 June 1999. The confirmation of his model life of heroic virtue on 28 June 1999 allowed for Pope John Paul II to title him as Venerable.
For Preca to be beatified one miracle - or a healing science could not explain - had to be ratified as having been a result of his intercession. One such miracle was investigated and it received C.C.S. validation in Rome on 21 November 1997 before a board of seven medical experts approved it on 10 June 1999 as did six theologians on 22 October 1999 and then the C.C.S. on 11 January 2000. John Paul II confirmed on 27 January 2000 that this healing was indeed a miracle and beatified Preca on 9 May 2001 while on his visit to Malta and had referred to him as the "Second Apostle of Malta". The miracle for beatification was the 3 February 1964 healing of Charles Zammit Endrich who suffered from a detached retina in his left eye. He was healed after Endrich placed one of Preca's belongings under his pillow and his personal doctor Ċensu Tabone oversaw this healing - Tabone was later the President of Malta.
For Preca to be canonized one more miracle - one that had to occur after beatification - had to be investigated and this happened from 2002 until 19 June 2004. This concerned the healing of the infant Eric Catania (b. 2002) from mironodular infantile cirrhosis with acute liver decompensation in addition to ascites and cholestasis and hypocoagulation on 24 July 2001 in London. The infant had been taken to Saint Luke's Hospital but was moved to King's College Hospital in London once his condition worsened. The sole hope for him was a transplant and the operation was planned until the hospital found that the available organ would receive rejection once it was put in place so his parents put a glove used during Preca's exhumation on the infant and he healed to the point the doctors said an operation was not needed at all. This process received C.C.S. validation on 17 December 2004 in Rome and then the approval of the medical board on 23 February 2006. The theologians approved this as well on 30 October 2006 as did the C.C.S. on 9 January 2007. Pope Benedict XVI approved this miracle on 22 February 2007 as being a result of his intercession. Benedict XVI canonized Preca on 3 June 2007 in Saint Peter's Square after having formalized the date for the celebration at a consistory on 23 February 2007 at 11:00am. The canonization cemented Preca as the second Maltese saint (Saint Publius being the first) and in his remarks the pope called Preca "a friend of Jesus".
Statue and relic
A statue of Preca was unveiled at the Saint Cajetan parish at Ħamrun during a solemn Mass that Archbishop Paul Cremona presided over on 17 December 2009. The statue was placed on the same spot where Preca spent hours hearing confessions. At the statue there is also his relic with a sample of his blood. The bronze statue is the work of sculptor Gianni Bonnici and was made in Caggiati in Parma.
The Luminous Mysteries
Pope John Paul II introduced on 16 October 2002 (in the apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae") five new mysteries of the rosary known as the Luminous Mysteries. There have been claims that Preca is the author of these mysteries. In 1957 he wrote five mysteries which he called the Mysteries of Light which are almost identical and Preca had drawn inspiration from John 8:12: "The light of the world".
His five were almost identical to those of the pope and are:
- After Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan, he was led into the desert.
- Jesus reveals Himself as true God by word and by miracles.
- Jesus teaches the Beatitudes on the mountain.
- Jesus is transfigured on the mountain.
- Jesus has His final supper with the Apostles.
In 2010 author Joseph Chetcuti published a book titled "Queer Mediterranean Memories" that made the claim that Saint George Preca had been a (repressed) homosexual but who had nevertheless led a chaste life. However some arguing for and against this suggest that the evidence presented is on "tenuous grounds" but is plausible.
The book also made claims that he kissed the feet of men in public but not those of women and also addressed letters to men with phrases such as "Dear Salvu" but to women addressing them as "Dear Daughters".
- "Saint George Preca". Saints SQPN. 26 July 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
- "Saint George Preca". Holy See. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
- "Probable Origin of the Mysteries of Light - Catholic Christian Article". Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- Allied Newspapers Ltd. "Gay saints and sinners". Times of Malta. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "Saint George Preca". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
- "Gorg Preca is officially Malta's first Catholic Saint". MaltaStar. 23 February 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-02-27. Retrieved 9 April 2007.
- Santaro, Nicholas J. (2011). Mary In Our Life: Atlas of the Names and Titles of Mary, The Mother of Jesus, and Their Place in Marian Devotion. iUniverse. p. 104. ISBN 9781462040223.
- Formosa, John (2004). "Dun Gorg - San Gorg Preca". Museum San Giljan. Archived from the original on 29 July 2013.