The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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TMID Editorial: Church presence - The archbishop’s mission

Wednesday, 28 February 2018, 09:40 Last update: about 7 years ago

The international media gave extensive coverage to Archbishop Charles Scicluna’s visit to New York City and Chile where, as an investigator appointed by Pope Francis, he looked into serious allegations of sexual abuse.

Labelled as the Vatican’s sex abuse investigator, Mgr Scicluna met victims who opposed the appointment of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up for the country’s most notorious paedophile priest. Pope Francis backed Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring the abuse of young parishioners by Fr Fernando Karadima. The latter was defrocked and sentenced to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” in 2010. The pope appointed Mgr Scicluna to find out more about the situation, directly from the victims, before taking measures he deems appropriate.

It was not an easy task for the Maltese archbishop. His mission was further complicated by the health issues he experienced while in Chile which, thankfully, were overcome in a relatively short term for Mgr Scicluna to complete his job. We know that he was emotionally perturbed by what he heard – one of the victims who testified reported that Mgr Scicluna “cried”, saying that “for the first time I felt that someone is listening. I think (Mgr Scicluna) was sincerely moved by what I was saying”.

Now Mgr Scicluna will report back to Pope Francis. It is not up to the Maltese bishop to take decisions. It is now in the hands of the pontiff.

Whatever happens, the fact that Mgr Scicluna was given such a delicate assignment shows the high standing he enjoys at the Vatican. For someone from tiny Malta to be given such a huge responsibility is a sign that Mgr Scicluna is held in high esteem by the Pope himself.

What is unfortunate is that this admiration is not shared by some people in Malta. It was appalling to read comments of Maltese people who expressed themselves on the social media to say they were overjoyed by his sudden illness. It is inexcusable for them to hold so much hatred against any man, let alone someone like the archbishop, and feel comfortable enough with it to share it publicly.

Mgr Scicluna is doing a sterling job as leader of the church in Malta. For too many years, the Church stood silent in the wake of developments that were rocking Malta’s foundations. For too long, the Church did not lift a finger when it was its duty to intervene to give its contribution to hot debates that were engulfing the country.

Since he became Archbishop, the Church in Malta is taking a more prominent role in our society – as it should. One may not agree with its stand, one may hold totally opposite views to what the Church believes – but there is no doubt that the Church has a responsibility to shoulder in our society, and it would be wrong for it to shy away from making its voice heard.

As much as it was Mgr Scicluna’s mission as the Vatican’s investigator in Chile to find out more about sexual abuse committed within the Church structures in this South American country, it is his mission as Archbishop of Malta to take a deep interest in what is taking place in our society, and express himself, like everybody else, when he feels it is right to do so.

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