MIZZI Maximilian - RuĦ - Reliġjon u Ħajja

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Fr Max or Josie as he was called before he joined the Franciscan Order, was my elder brother. With just thirteen months between us we grew up almost like twins. We attended the same Catechism lessons, received our First Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation together and although at Primary school he was one year ahead of me, when war broke out in 1940 and our family moved to a safer place my brother was forced to miss a year and as a result for three years we were in the same class. However in 1943 we parted company. He was admitted to the Archbishop’s Seminary and I entered the Lyceum. Although we were very close and shared many of our childhood experiences our characters were miles apart. Josie was strong headed, had lots of guts, was fearless and often acted on instinct. On the other hand I was the quiet, thoughtful type, rather timid, much too timid in my brother’s eyes. As a result he was my “boss” but also my protector often coming to my rescue when I was bullied at school or in the playground. Because of these contrasting characters my father who was deeply religious and hoped and prayed that one of his sons would follow his brother and join the Franciscan Conventuals was under the impression that it was I who would become a religious and not my brother. However at about fourteen Josie made it clear that he had the vocation for the priesthood and not me. As a matter of fact he joined the Order in 1946 when he was just sixteen and less than nine years later he was ordained a priest. During the first four years of his priesthood he carried out pastoral work in Valletta, St Paul’s Bay and in Gozo. Then in 1959 he was called to Italy by his superiors and spent no less than forty nine years in that country, mostly in Assisi. Being full of energy and one not afraid to take up challenges Max became involved in various activities and initiatives like the peace marches from Assisi to Rome and other places and later in the Inter Religious Dialogue with Christians and non Christians to which he dedicated most of his religious life. He was instrumental in the setting up of the Centro Francescano di Apostolato Ecumenico which led to the creation of the Centro Francescano per il Dialogo with which his name is closely associated. He played a very active role in organising the first celebration of the World Day of Prayers for peace in Assisi in 1986. Max participated in many conferences and forums held in various parts of the world to advance the cause of peace and understanding among the world religions. As a result of his involvement in such movements he had the privilege to meet a number of world leaders, including John Paul II, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Yasser Arafat and Mikhael Gorbachev. In 1976 Fr Max received the silver medal from Pope Paul VI and in 1987 he was presented with the Cross of St Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie. In 1999 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and a year later the Maltese Government made him a Companion of the National Order of Merit. My brother was, I think, a humble person and the text of the talks which He gave and which are found in this book made me realise more than I was aware of, that he was also a man of very deep Christian faith. His faith and his strong character kept him busy to the very last. In September 2007 he was due to come over to Malta to celebrate the thanksgiving mass on our 50th wedding anniversary. However just a couple of days before he called from Assisi to inform me that on the advice of his doctors he was cancelling the trip. And yet only a month later he went over to Denmark [probably to attend some ecumenical meeting.] That was his last visit abroad. Just before Christmas 2007 he was admitted to hospital once more in critical condition. And although he was discharged some weeks later he passed away on March 3rd 2008. The Church dignitaries together with various people of different faiths and an impressive number of fellow Franciscans who were present for his funeral at the Basilica on March 5, 2007 was, a sign, a proof of the respect which my brother enjoyed not least for his untiring efforts in the cause of peace and unity among peoples.
May God be praised.
Laurence Mizzi
Brother of Fr Mizzi
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