The Malta Independent 20 June 2019, Thursday

Updated (5): Archbishop Mercieca passes away; funeral on Wednesday; 3 days of mourning

Sunday, 20 March 2016, 22:37 Last update: about 4 years ago

Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca has passed away this morning, the Church of Malta said. He was aged 87.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna last night called for prayers for Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca, who was in critical condition.

He died this morning at 7.20am.

The Curia issued a statement to announce the details leading up to the funeral, to be held on Wednesday.

Today, a corteo will leave his residence in Zejtun to St John's C-Cathedral, where people can pay their last respects between 5pm and 8pm. At 5pm, a prayer service will be led by Mgr Scicluna.

People can also pay their respects on Tuesday from 9am to 8pm, with a prayer service led by Archbishop Scicluna to start at 6pm.

On Wednesday, people can pay their respects between 9am and noon. Funeral Mass will start at 4pm, followed by private burial at the Mdina Cathedral.

The government ordered three days of national mourning as a sign of respect.

(Archbishop Mercieca with Pope John Paul II)

In a tweet Mons. Scicluna said the former Archbishop, who led the Church in Malta between 1976 and 2006, was "preparing for the Holy Journey to the House of the Father."

(Archbishop Mercieca with Pope Benedict)

This morning, in another tweet, Archbishop Scicluna announced Mgr Mercieca's death.

(Archbishop Mercieca with Pope John Paul I)

President Marie Louise Coleiro expressed her regret in a statement, saying that Mgr Mercieca was instrumental at a cruical time for the Church and State in Malta.

Speaking to journalists this morning, Mrs Coleiro Preca said Mons. Merieca was a catalyst in bringing peace between the Church and the Malta Labour Party. “He carried out his duties well not only as the head of the Church in Malta but also as a citizen.” Mons. Mercieca, she said, had always acted in an able and dignified manner. 

In a tweet, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil said they were saddened by the loss.

The Nationalist Party said Mons. Mercieca would be remembered for defending the Church in difficult times. It expressed its condolences with the family of the former Archbishop as well as the Church. 

Labour MEP Alfred Sant, who for a time was Prime Minister when Archbishop Mercieca was in office, said Archbishop Ġużeppi Mercieca was a cordial, cautious and correct person who chose prudence in the way of doing things. "I always appreciated the frankness with which he spoke to me even if he tried not to offend me in any way with his words and actions.

"In 1997, before government announced a study about divorce and the family in Malta, I visited him personally and face to face explained our plans. He showed me that he wasn’t pleased. He recommended prudence but accepted that government had every right to legislate what was being recommened at that time, when on the social front, things were different from today.

"I appreciated a lot his two visits at hospital when I was being operated at Mater Dei Hospital. In his humility, Mons Mercieca would, on more than one occasion, make private visits to patients at different hospitals.

"I was really sad when I heard of his passing away and would like to extend  my condolences to his relatives.

Mgr Mercieca, 87, was born in Rabat, Gozo, on 11 November 1928. He was educated at the Gozo seminary and completed his studies at the Gregorian University and Lateran University in Rome, graduating in theology and canon law.

(Archbishop Mercieca with Pope John Paul II)

He was ordained priest in 1952 and was appointed chancellor of the Gozo Curia. He was also a teacher of theology and canon law at the Gozo Seminary, of which he was also rector.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop on 29 September 1974. He later became vicar general, a post he held until his nomination as metropolitan archbishop of Malta on 12 December 1976.

On 11 November 2003, he offered his resignation from the post to Pope John Paul II in accordance with the requirements of canon law regarding diocesan bishops who reach the age of 75. He actually resigned in January 2007 when he was succeeded by Mgr Paul Cremona.

In 1995 he was appointed member of the Xirka Gieh ir-Repubblika.

Source: Dictionary of Maltese Biographies; Michael J. Schiavone.

(Archbishop Mercieca with Mother Teresa)


Photo credit: The Church in Malta

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