International Catholic congress for Gibraltar

by Brian McCann
The Roman Catholic diocese of Gibraltar will be hosting an important International Marian Congress next month.

The themes of the congress will be ‘Mary, a sign of Christian identity; religion, anthropology, history and art.’ It will take place from March 5th to 7th at the Europa Retreat Centre, and its object, according to Bishop Charles Caruana, is “to disseminate the importance of Marian devotion to the image of Our Lady of Europa through its history and the artistic legacy that has developed around it; and that it should become the centre of studies of the figure of the Virgin Mary from the standpoint of faith, art, history and anthropology.”

The bishop said that the holding of the congress in Gibraltar coincides with the first centenary of the diocese in its present form, although its history goes back to 1462 when it was part of the diocese of Cádiz.

At present, delegates from all over Spain have said that they will be attending, as well as one from Sicily. Other countries are expected to participate but have not, as yet, confirmed.

The congress is being organised by the bishop and Father Charles Azzopardi, rector of the shrine of Our Lady of Europe, with Jesús López Alfonso acting as general coordinator. Señor López is originally from Seville and works as a teacher of art history in La Línea; but he lives in Gibraltar and is happy to describe himself as Gibraltarian.

The congress schedule consists of ten lectures on subjects covering various Marian topics as represented throughout the Iberian Peninsula. The subscription is £68, which includes inscription and food but not accommodation. Details can be obtained from, telephone 00 350 20077138 or 00 350 58008677; with the closing date being February 26th.

Father Azzopardi revealed that 23cm-high replicas of Our Lady of Europa had been made, and 1,000 had been sold so far. He said that one is in the hospital at Lourdes and that other replicas will be blessed during the congress. He also said that it was planned to attend a similar congress in Jamaica later this year and he hoped to be able to arrange for the diocese of Tangier to hold a similar event.

Bishop Caruana disclosed that the Bishop of Iceland had written to him to say that he had named an Icelandic church ‘Our Lady of Europe’. “Many Gibraltarians don’t realise how important this diocese is,” he said.

Specific celebrations of the centenary of the Gibraltar diocese will take place in September and November, with further symposia and individual parish events. Father Azzopardi said that this would include the consecration of St Theresa’s church, which had been blessed but never consecrated.