Italy, tremors and Brus­sels

As I write this piece, there are more and more tremors be­ing felt along cen­tral Italy, from Peru­gia down­wards to the his­tor­i­cal cen­tre of Rome, in the af­ter­math of the overnight quakes that de­stroyed so many pre­cious old build­ings, but hap­pily re­sulted on

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - * * *

Not even that is new. Even well be­fore the Greece, Por­tu­gal and Spain de­ba­cles, as ev­ery year Brus­sels was tak­ing it upon it­self to man­age and con­trol fi­nances from a dis­tance, of­ten caus­ing con­cern and arous­ing anger among mem­ber states that find they have to trim projects and pro­grammes by way of avoid­ing the wrath of Euro­pean and global fi­nan­cial and bank­ing in­sti­tu­tions which, para­dox­i­cally, were largely re­spon­si­ble for the var­i­ous crises that hit – and, years on, con­tinue to gnaw at – the euro­zone. area, killing hun­dreds of peo­ple and de­stroy­ing whole towns and vil­lages. Renzi typ­i­cally rushed into the breach and promised help in build­ing new, safer hous­ing and pro­vid­ing aid, tem­po­rary shel­ter and sup­port for the thousands of vic­tims and their fam­i­lies. There have been Ital­ian gov­ern­ments be­fore, from the old, crusty Chris­tian Democrats and So­cial­ists to the Ber­lus­coni band­wagon, promis­ing the same in the past, only to fail to keep their word. There were hun­dreds of fam­i­lies, re­ferred to as the ter­re­mo­tati in nearby Si­cily, who had to live in con­tain­ers for a whole in the Mid­dle East from cross­ing their bor­ders, Italy, with the help of in­ter­na­tional res­cue or­gan­i­sa­tions and even tiny Malta’s limited means, has been sav­ing and shel­ter­ing thousands of them. At a mas­sive fi­nan­cial cost de­spite the sup­ply of spe­cial EU funds.

So, if mem­ber states can ig­nore agree­ments on a fairer dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem of refugee in­take, why should Italy even bother to ac­cept a lower 2017 deficit per­cent­age tar­get? It cer­tainly has more than enough on its plate, thank you, and I see no con­clu­sion to the stale­mate other than that of to­tal ca­pit­u­la­tion by Brus­sels. on such mat­ters is for­feited. The threat to thousands of jobs and the loss of mil­lions of in­come would be an in­signif­i­cant tremor to Brus­sels, but a ma­jor catas­tro­phe for Malta and the Mal­tese.

The Mal­tese gov­ern­ment has, on both oc­ca­sions, rightly made no bones about it and de­clared its out­right op­po­si­tion to it.

Oh no, not again

At a time when it is so good to ob­serve the Catholic Church com­ing out of its medieval shell un­der Pope Fran­cis, it some­how feels like having a sud­den flat tyre to read what the Vat­i­can has lately been say­ing to its be­liev­ers about cre­ma­tion. In a two-page in­struc­tion, it has spec­i­fied the care and han­dling of the “faith­fully de­parted” that have been burned to cin­ders rather than placed in the ground.

While it has not gone back to its sense­less op­po­si­tion to cre­ma­tion, it is now dilly-dal­ly­ing with what is to be done with the ashes. The new doc­u­ment con­found­ingly says that if Catholics in­sist on be­ing cre­mated, they should know “church of­fi­cials no longer per­mit” – oh, no, not that ter­mi­nol­ogy again – the scat­ter­ing of human ashes. Urns must also be kept in “sa­cred places” and not at home or di­vided among the fam­ily.

It all took me back to my child­hood in­side the Kalkara mu­seum premises where we were of­ten told about the Ġudiz­zju Univer­sali (the Fi­nal Judge­ment) with sto­ries about the dead com­ing back to life and queu­ing up to be judged by an army of an­gels de­scend­ing from the sky. Need­less to say, as kids be­fore the Harry Pot­ter age we had to re­sort to our own wild imag­i­na­tion and I re­mem­ber us, after the les­son, laugh­ingly de­scrib­ing how, for ex­am­ple, peo­ple who had died in an ex­plo­sion with their bones blasted all over the place and no proper burial, would have bones fly­ing about un­til they form into the per­fect shape of the “faith­fully de­parted”.

Boys will be boys, of course, and the sto­ries that we con­cocted would have been per­fect fod­der for to­day’s scrib­blers of vam­pire TV se­ries and movies. We didn’t know any­thing about cre­ma­tion at the time, so there could not have been any macabre yarns about ashes drift­ing out of vases like in a scene from The Mummy!

The new Vat­i­can line on cre­ma­tion in fact pro­hibits the scat­ter­ing of any ashes in the air, on earth and in wa­ter, as well as keep­ing them at home in a com­mem­o­ra­tive item, such as dec­o­rated con­tain­ers. In say­ing so, it cites “the dig­nity and re­spect for the human body”. But what body? Cre­ma­tion, clean, hy­gienic and prac­ti­cal as far as avail­able ter­ri­tory is con­cerned, in fact respects the per­son and the so­ci­ety that he or she has served.

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