Photos: Jonathan Borg
The new Archbishop-elect of Malta, Mgr Charles J. Scicluna, today promised to be himself and to listen before speaking. The Archbishop-elect was speaking at a press conference during which Pope Francis’ nomination for the Maltese Church’s next leader was made official. Mgr Scicluna will be replacing Mgr Paul Cremona, who resigned on 14 October for health reasons.
He will be installed as the new head of the Church in Malta in a ceremony to be held at the Mdina Cathedral on Saturday 21 March, Apostolic Nuncio Aldo Cavalli confirmed. “He will have three roles on the day: sanctifying the people to God, helping them to learn the truths of our faith and leading them on the path towards God.”
In his first words as the new leader of the Church in Malta, Mgr Scicluna said that he would like to be an example to everyone with his deeds and duties, in the hope that others will follow.
“I will need to listen to the diocese because if I do not I cannot expect to have the authority to speak. I cannot expect people to listen to me if I do not listen to them first.” The Archbishop-elect said he would be meeting different categories of people before his instalment.
“My vocation is to lay my life for my flock. The Lord asked Peter for his love – he told him to be a shepherd and that means to lead and to love.”
Mgr Scicluna said he will not be arrogant but a model for others to follow. “Comfort and forgiveness have to be the reality of our diocese. We should open our hearts to people who knock at our doors and come to our shores,” he said. “I want to pass on a message of hope and courage; we should not destroy what we have with the poison of fear and hatred”.
Mgr Scicluna then fielded questions from the press. Asked if he would be seeking a shake-up of the Curia administration, the new Archbishop said he does not exclude making changes to faces. “My sleep during the past few nights has not been so peaceful because I have been thinking hard about this. The Curia needs restructuring. This is part of the listening programme that I have to submit myself to.”
The Church has registered financial losses every year and this matter needs to be addressed. “The Curia needs to become more efficient and we need to address the situation of the €500,000 deficit we are registering every year. I need to listen to the experienced people who have already done a great deal of work. We have before us their expert advice and I need to take decisions.”
Mgr Scicluna said he will remain himself. “I am not alone in this and there were many people who approached me lately to express their concerns but also to show their support.”
The new leader of the Church in Malta said he was only told last Sunday about his appointment. “I felt a great sense of peace when I was told by the Nuncio, even if the nights after that were less peaceful.” The first to learn the news were his mother and father, with whom he lives and will continue to live after his appointment. “The official residences in Attard and Mdina will be used to hold meetings with members of the clergy and lay people,” he said, in reply to questions by The Malta Independent.
Asked about the future of the Church, Mgr Scicluna said the biggest challenge will be to become a credible witness of the teachings of the gospels. “My responsibility will be to act as a shepherd for the diocese. I will also be close to the clergy, the parish priests and the Bishops.”
He said that he will not be requesting the appointment of an auxiliary bishop tomorrow or the next day. This decision must take its time, he said.
"Charles Sicluna has been appointed Archbishop, and Malta will get Charles Scicluna, not a photocopy," he said.
The Archbishop elect was asked to say how he will inspire the Church in the wake of the so-called ‘leadership crisis.’ “I have to do that by being myself.” He referred to a particular occasion when Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, becoming leader of the Catholic Church, said that this should be the quality of the Pope who would replace John Paul II.
When asked, by this paper, if he would include young faces in his new team, Mgr Scicluna said that is his wish but he does not wish to lose the ‘great treasure’ that are people of great experience within the Church. “I have thought a lot about this and, while I would like an element of youth around me, I cannot dismiss or disrespect those from whom I have much to learn.”
Mgr Scicluna was also asked on the subject of the ‘visions’ of the Holy Mary and other supposedly miraculous happenings. “St Paul tells us not no ignore any prophecy but he also teaches us to discern everything and only hold on to what is good. This will be my guide.”
As soon as the press conference ended, Mgr Charles Scicluna went into the Curia chapel to pray.
President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca was the first to congratulate Mgr Scicluna for his appointment.
The Labour Party also congratulated Mgr Scicluna who, it said, has before him an important task. The PL also stressed on the importance of the separation of Church and state.
PN Leader Simon Busuttil said Mgr Scicluna speaks clearly and is not afraid to take a stand. He aslo understands the different methods of communication the Church needs to get its messages accross. "Mgr Scicluna has an important task of making the Church relevent for today's society. On a personal basis he is an outgoing person who is capable of touching the hearts of everyone with intelligence, humility and simpathy."
Born in Toronto, Canada, Mgr Scicluna came to Malta with his family in 1960 and they resided in Qormi. He was educated at St Aloysius College and the University of Malta from where he graduated as a lawyer and in theology. He was ordained a priest in 1986.
In 1991 he also obtained a doctorate in Canon Law in Rome.
Between 1990 and 1995, he was defender of the bond and promoter of justice at Metropolitan Court of Malta, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Canon Law at the local Faculty of Theology and Vice-Rector of the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese. His pastoral activities included service at the parishes of St. Gregory the Great in Sliema and Transfiguration in Iklin. He served as chaplain to the local Convent of St. Catherine.
In 1995 he began his 17-year Vatican career first as Deputy Promoter of Justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and then as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was later to become pope.
As Promoter of Justice, he was credited with constructing the 2010 universal norms that extended the Church's statutes of limitations on reporting cases of sexual abuse and expanded the category of ecclesial crimes to include sexual misconduct with a disabled adult and possession of child pornography.
On 6 October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named Scicluna as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Malta and Titular Bishop of San Leone. The Vatican announcement described him as "highly respected among his peers around the world for his lecturing skills and his expertise in child protection issues".
He was consecrated bishop on 24 November 2012 by Archbishop Paul Cremona, OP and served as his deputy until Mgr Cremona resigned.
On 1 December 2012 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Mgr Scicluna to a renewable five-year term as a member to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In January this year, the Vatican had announced that mgr Scicluna had been appointed to head a Vatican college within the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to examine appeals to the ordinary session of the Congregation. He had told The Malta Independent that day that his appointment in Rome did not preclude him from becoming Malta's Archbishop.
MESSAGE OF ARCHBISHOP-ELECT MGR CHARLES J. SCICLUNA
"I thank thank the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for having entrusted me with this mission as shepherd of the Archdiocese of Malta. I greet the people of Malta and Gozo, my Brother Bishops, the clergy, members of religious Orders and lay people, and all persons of goodwill. I promise to lay down my life, following the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd."