Mgr Charles J. Scicluna was this morning ordained auxiliary bishop at a ceremony in a St John’s co-Cathedral filled to overflowing with members of his family, visiting archbishops and bishops and representatives from across the Maltese diocese, among other dignitaries.
The Episcopal Ordination – a ceremony led by Archbishop Paul Cremona celebrating Mgr Scicluna’s moment of renewed commitment to the Church – took centre-stage, overshadowing the political scene, with a string of activities held this week in the run-up to the ceremony. The ordination was televised live on TVM 2.
Following one of the readings, all those present burst into applause.
The 53-year-old newly ordained Titular Bishop of San Leone, is now entrusted with leadership responsibilities in the Curia and in the diocesan pastoral ministry. He has become a member of the Maltese Episcopal Conference alongside Archbishop Paul Cremona and Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech.
Renowned for his policy of zero tolerance towards the Church sexual abuse cases, Mgr Scicluna acted as the Vatican’s promoter of justice and chief prosecutor in the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church over the past decade.
Archbishop Cremona’s homily started off by thanking God “for choosing people to be so close to his salvific will for men.
“I, personally, and in the name of the Church in Malta, would like to show my gratitude to His Holiness Pope Benedict for sending us Mgr Scicluna – with his talents and experience – to help me and the Church in Malta on its way towards holiness.
“Unlike in other religions, our God, as revealed to us by Jesus Christ, is a God who has man as his centre of interest, while in other religions God remains aloof and expects man to approach him. This already gives you the idea of what the Church is and what the Bishop, who represents Christ, should be.
“This is shown very clearly in today’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah and in the Gospel.”
The Ordination began with the Bishops putting aside their mitres, standing near the principal ordaining Bishop, with hands joined, facing the people and inviting them to pray.
The Bishop-elect knelt alongside other members of the congregation and the litany was sung.
The principle ordaining Bishop stood at his chair and, wearing his mitre, placed his hands on a kneeling Scicluna, surrounded by a number of priests, without saying a word. The Book of Gospels was placed on the Bishop-elect’s head while the Prayer of Ordination was read out.
The anointing of the head followed with the principal ordaining Bishop putting a linen tunic on his lap and, taking the Holy chrism from one of the priests, anointed the head of the newly-ordained Bishop, who knelt before him and prayed.
The ring was placed on Mgr Scicluna’s ring finger and a standing ovation and round of applause followed.
Among those present at the ceremony were Mgr Prospero Grech, who was appointed cardinal a short while after having been ordained bishop, Cormac Cardinal Murphy O’Connor and Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, Archbishop Tommaso Caputo, among other archbishops, the President of the Republic George Abela and his Mrs Abela, the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, EU Commissioner-elect Tonio Borg, President Emeritus Edward Fenech Adami, Environment Minister George Pullicino, Health Minister Joe Cassar, former Attorney-General Silvio Camilleri, PN Whip David Agius, PN MP Francis Zammit Dimech and Labour MPs Jose Herrera, and Mgr Scicluna’s fellow law student Tony Abela, and newly appointed Judge Lorraine Schembri Orland.
At the end of the service, a large crowd – consisting of both tourists and locals who had been following the proceedings by way of a large screen erected outside the main door – gathered outside the cathedral.
Awaiting members of the press were left without obtaining the new auxiliary bishop’s bishop-elect's reaction following his ordination, as police quickly ushered him into his waiting car, amid the applause of the awaiting crowd.
In an interview published in by Associated Press and quoted by this newspaper, Mgr Scicluna said: “The Church’s fight against sexual abuse is to remain strong”.
On Friday’s discussion programme Xarabank, presenter Peppi Azzopardi put Mgr Scicluna on the spot by asking him for his opinion over the child sex abuse scandals which saw two priests sentenced to jail for a total of 11 years, and his personal stand on the compensation requested by the victims from the Church for psychological damages.
“It is the Church’s role to help the victims by offering them psychological help – which also costs money – but that is what money is for after all, for use when it’s needed. However, regarding monetary compensation, the victims should seek that privately from the abusers,” he said.