Coat of Arms

The Most Reverend John Sam Bonnici

Titular Bishop of Arindela, Auxiliary Bishop of New York

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For his personal coat of arms, His Excellency Bishop Bonnici has selected a gothic shape shield, frequently used in Roman Catholic Church heraldry, a device that reflects his life as a priest and now as a Bishop.

The shield is divided into three sections, normally referred to as a triptych. The left portion of the shield is a red field with the Maltese Cross in white. The red is the color of love. It represents the love of God the Father who sent his Son to shed his blood for the sake of our salvation. The cross is chiefly associated with the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Island of Malta. It offers tribute to the Maltese heritage of Bishop Bonnici’s loving father and the centuries-old Catholic faith of an island nation.

The portion to the right of the shield is an azure field with the letter “M” in gold. The color azure (blue) symbolizes separation from worldly values and the ascent of the soul toward God. The letter “M” is taken from the Coat of Arms of His Holiness St. Pope John Paul II. Bishop Bonnici studied in Rome at the John Paul II Institute and was ordained a deacon and priest during His Holiness’ pontificate. The “M” honors our Lady, the “Mother of priests,” Bishop’s Marian devotion and gratitude for the gift of his own loving mother.

In the lower extremity is a gold field with the symbol of an eagle on top of an open book. The color gold, the first among noble elements, symbolizes the virtue of faith. The eagle represents the Apostle and Evangelist John. St. John is Bishop Bonnici’s Baptismal patron. Moreover, study of John’s Gospel, particularly John 15, has and continues to be an inspiration.

Finally, a white star, the “Stella matutina” (morning star) unites the shield at its center. The star, a Marian symbol, is taken from the coat of arms of His Holiness Pope Francis. Pope Francis appointed Bishop Bonnici as an Auxiliary Bishop of New York.

For his motto, Bishop Bonnici uses the phrase “To Jesus Through Mary.” From St. Louis de Montfort to St. John Paul II, these words inspire many to answer Jesus’ call through Mary’s loving example and guidance. Personally, the phrase is especially meaningful, because it was written in His Excellency’s breviary by Mother Teresa when he was a seminarian after a morning Mass at the Missionaries of Charity mission in Rome.

The device is completed with the external ornaments, which are a gold processional bottony cross with five red stones to represent the five Wounds of Christ, which is placed in back of the shield and which extends above and below the shield, and a pontifical hat, called a “gallero,” with its six tassels, in three rows, on either side of the shield, all in green. These are the heraldic insignia of a prelate of the rank of Bishop by Instruction of the Holy See of March 31, 1969.

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