The Malta Independent 17 November 2018, Saturday

Archbishop offers to step down, Vatican accepts resignation, Auxiliary Bishop takes over

Saturday, 18 October 2014, 11:30 Last update: about 5 years ago

The Vatican Press has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Mgr Paul Cremona, it has been confirmed in a press conference this morning.

Speaking to The Malta Independent after a press conference held this morning about Sunday's ceremony to beatify Pope Paul VI, the Vatican's press officer Father Federico Lombardi said that the Vatican is still to confirm its position on the matter. But later the Vatican said that is accepted the resignation.

(Fr Federico Lombardi)

The Curia has in the meantime scheduled a press conference for Saturday. In the meantime Auxiliary Bishop Mgr Charles Scicluna has taken over the temporary leadership of the Church until a substitute is named. This process, The Malta Independent is informed, could take weeks or months.

Sources told The Malta Independent that the appointment of a temporary leader does not necessarily mean that that person will ultimately be the one who will replace Mgr Cremona as Archbishop. 

The Malta Independent learnt yesterday evening that the head of the Maltese Church has written to Pope Francis informing him of his decision to step down. 

A scheduled pastoral visit to Qormi this week was cancelled by the Archbishop as speculation about his future grew.

It would be the first time that a bishop in Malta requests to step down before the formal age of retirement at 75 years. Mgr Cremona is 68 years old and became archbishop seven years ago.

The resignation comes in the wake of reports that the Church in Malta was demoralised and needed a new leader. Priests have also expressed the concern about what they called a leadership vacuum.

Welcomed with open arms and seen as a leader that could have given the Church a new impetus, Mgr Cremona's tenure did not turn out as expected, as health issues and internal struggles hindered his mission.

Mgr Cremona took over in 2007 and immediately came face to face with huge indifference towards the Church, which also culminated in the campaign to introduce divorce in 2011 leading up to a referendum which dealt a significant blow to the Church. This was followed up this year with the introduction of civil unions, another issue that had the Church almost alone in opposition.

With the number of people attending Mass dropping year after year, the Church continued to lose its relevance in modern day society. The dwindling number of priests have made the running of the day-to-day duties in parishes evern more difficult, with the Archbishop recently deciding on the appointment of what are known as lay permanent deacons to help out with officiating baptisms, marriages and funerals.

This could now be seen as the Archbishop's parting shot.

A spokesperson for the Curia did not deny the Archbishop's resignation offer, saying such information would be given from the Apostolic Nunciature.

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