I was in Malta in June for our annual meeting of media officers and spokespersons from Bishops’ Conferences across Europe. We were 50 participants from 27 countries meeting together from Monday 17 until Wednesday 19 June. It was my 10 or 11th such meeting but my first time on Malta.
I flew out on Sunday 16 June on the one flight going from Dublin to Malta that day. It was uneventful, which is the way I like my flights. I will tell you about a Ryanair Berlin flight experience another time that involved us having to call the airport police upon landing back in Dublin.
I used the opportunity on the flight over to catch up on some reading – a nice holiday read that I completed in the 3 hours and 40 minutes it took for the flight. The book is Still Me by Jo Jo Moyes. It’s the first book of hers that I have read. It was grand really. I found myself slightly invested in the main character but a little bit more invested in the apartment building and the elderly neighbour with the dog. However, I can just visualise these characters coming to life on the big screen.
Anyway, back to Malta where I bumped into two colleagues from Switzerland at the airport and we shared a taxi from the airport to the hotel and after check in had a quick bite of dinner in a small Pizza place in Valetta.
We stayed in the Hotel Excelsior which was a more than a pleasant surprise as usually we stay in a monastery or a seminary. It was dark when we got to the hotel so it was early Monday morning before I had a chance to have a proper look at the facilities of the hotel and the view out across the harbour which was spectacular.
It was a breakfast of champions with miniature hash browns, bacon, baked beans [a favourite] and all the breakfast pastries you could wish for. There was fresh fruit and pancakes or omelettes made to order.
Several mini hash browns later I went back to the room, grabbed my swimsuit and headed off to the pool where I only intended to stay for half an hour. Three hours later I was still by the pool reading up on my notes ahead of the one pm start of the meeting. There was no time for lunch as I grabbed a shower and a quick change of clothes – work suit and make up and it was off for the start of the meeting.
We were hosted for our meeting by the Archdiocese of Malta in the Curia (HQ) which is a beautiful building with a creamy facade that seemed to sparkled in the blistering sunshine and the 36 degrees celscius heat. It is an old building belonging to the Jesuits now in the care of the Archdiocese of Malta.The walls of the room were covered in frescos and it was wonderfully cool and air conditioned which was welcome to someone who had come from 9 degrees celsius weather in Ireland the day before.
The meeting is organised each year by the CCEE and the theme this year was on Crisis Communication, something those of us working in Communications and PR know quite a bit about. Over three days we would hear from speakers and have a chance to chat together and to share experiences on this topic.
Each day began with Lauds, included a beautiful celebration of the Eucharist and ended with Vespers. The Mass and prayers were multilingual.
Our Vespers and Mass on the first day took place in St John’s Co-Cathedral which is a beautiful space that boasts not one, but two Carravagio paintings which I was transfixed by, even through the lens of my iPhone.
This pic was taken by the official photographer and capturing me as I captured pics became a bit of a standing joke during the trip. Still it was lovely to have someone else behind the camera as I normally come home from a trip with loads of pics of everyone but me. The photographer is Ian Noel Pace and he also operated a drone camera for some of the events we completed while in Malta so we really do have a 360 degree memory of the event.
On day two of the meeting we left the hotel early and would not return from our meeting, dinner and Mass until 11pm that night. Even though the hotel has a 24 indoor pool, it was too late, even for me, for a midnight swim. Instead it was Netflix and chill back in my room as I poured over some of the main points from day two of the meeting.
We went to Mdina for Mass on Day two where we had a chance to visit the tomb of Saint Paul and where we had Vespers. Then a short walk later through the streets of Mdina and we arrived at the beautiful Church where Archbishop Sciculna celebrated Mass for us – mostly in English this time – but with some of the prayers in Italian, Latin and French. I read the bidding prayers.
After the Mass we were hosted by the Archbishop in a restaurant close to the church in Mdina where we got a chance to chat to colleagues from across Europe about our work, our families and life in general. Our table was also engaged by the recent Chernobyl documentary as we had a colleague from Ukraine with us.
A wonderful harpist played in the background and as I played a mental ‘name that tune’ game I recognised the Game of Thrones theme tune; Ed Sheeran, Paul Simon and Adele as well as Danny Boy.
Wednesday morning was another early start as we were collected at 8.15am for Mass in the Curia. This was another multi lingual celebration of Eucharist with music and singing provided by a local choir.
The final part of the meeting saw us joined once again by Archbishop Sciculna who encouraged us in our work as communicators calling it an important mission for the Church.
We concluded the meeting with a very informal and simple lunch at the Curia and then we had some free time before meeting up again for a tour by boat around all the parts of the island. We were shown the dry dock, the cruise ships the size of floating cities, the old and the new, as well as the places where scenes from Game of Thrones and Gladiators was filmed. We were shown many more splendid churches [there are 366 of them to see on Malta].
We left the boat and the harbour behind and some colleagues said their goodbyes.
There was a little bit of time for a swim and then a walk around some of the streets as well as a night time look down over the harbour. As the shadows dropped in there was a gorgeous quality to the light against the buildings and the sky.
A simple pizza at a small restaurant in and then back to the hotel to pack.
Work was done and with my flight back not departing until 3pm on the Thursday, I spent the last morning by the beautiful pool and had a dip in the Mediterranean.
It was a great meeting in many ways – it was great to catch up with colleagues from other countries and to meet new people. Our hosts were warm and welcoming and nothing was too much trouble. I said as much in the short video interview I was invited to do on the last night. Some of the subject matter considered during the meeting was challenging but it was important to have the opportunity to speak together as European colleagues.
I really didn’t want to leave Malta. As we took off I promised myself that I would go back.
If you haven’t been I urge you to add it to your travel list because of the people, the place, the pace, the food, the friendliness, the sights, the sea and the sun!
Go visit Malta!
I flew Ryanair direct from Dublin to Malta.
I stayed at the Hotel Excelsior which is gorgeous – book in advance and check out the deals too – they have great facilities and a huge variety of rooms and packages.