Former Gozo Bishop Mario Grech has been elevated to the rank of Cardinal today in a ceremony held at the Vatican
Grech is one of 13 bishops to be created cardinals, two of them in absentia because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Grech, who in an interview with The Malta Independent said that he would like to continue to be referred to as Dun Mario, is the third Maltese to become a Cardinal, the first from Gozo.
The first Maltese cardinal was Fabrizio Sceberras Testaferrata, who was born to a noble family in 1757. He was created a cardinal by Pope Pius VII in 1816. Sceberras Testaferrata took part in three papal conclaves – those that elected Pope Leo XII in 1823, Pope Pius VIII in 1829 and Pope Gregory in 1830-31. He died in 1843 and was buried in the cathedral of Senigallia, in the province of Ancona, where he served as bishop.
The second Maltese cardinal was Prospero Grech, who was born in Vittoriosa in 1925. He was created a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, becoming the first Augustinian priest to be named a Prince of the Church in more than a century. Grech was 87 years old at the time, and so ineligible to vote in the conclave that took place only a year later, when Pope Benedict abdicated and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis. Grech died in Rome last year.
The third is Mario Grech, who was born in Qala in 1957. He was ordained a priest in 1984 and took over as head of the Gozo diocese in 2006, serving there until 2019, when he was appointed pro-secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. Last month he became secretary general, replacing Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri upon his reaching the 80th birthday.
‘A synodal Church is a Church that listens’ – Cardinal Mario Grech
A synodal Church is a Church that listens, said former Gozo Bishop and newly created Cardinal Mario Grech, or ‘Dun Mario’ as he prefers to be called.
He opened his speech at the consistory – Grech was chosen to represented his colleagues – by making reference to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that the newly elected Cardinals would like to turn their focus on “all our brothers and sisters” who are currently suffering as they are called into the Consistory.
“The dramatic circumstances that the Church and the whole world are going through right now challenges us to look at the pandemic in a way that helps every person recognise at this dramatic time is also an opportunity to ‘rethink our lifestyles, our relationships, the organisation of our societies, and on sense of our lives’ (FT, 33).”
He explained that the Church is being called to open new pathways for its people and walk alongside them as this is the only way that the Kingdom of God can be reached.
“A synodal church is a ‘Church that listens’. Reciprocal hearing, just like that of the Spirit, is likely to be the most authentic form of how we can get to that ‘open mind, that is, incomplete, but always open to the maius of God and of the Truth, always developing’ that you, Sanctity (the Pope), stress as being the sign the good philosopher, the good theologian, and evidently even of the ’good bishop’.”
Dun Mario said that synodality fits all areas of life as well as the the Church’s mission, creating a circular dynamic: the churches, eclectic provinces and regions, the universal Church, where even the College of Cardinals offers its participation, are all included in that synodal process that demonstrates “a communal dynamic that inspires all eclectic decisions”.
“This is the basis of the work that we are being called to do,” he said. “The first contribution is that of listening: I have already written to all the bishops of the world, offering them our availability, and many have confirmed to me the importance of listening to each other. But I believe and I want the Synodal Secretary to do more, for example to support bishops and episcopal conferences in the curation of a synod style, which is lead not by interference, but by joining the ongoing processes on the various levels of the Church.”
A programme of the event can be downloaded from: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2020/20201128-libretto-concistorocreazione-cardinali.pdf.
MaltaPost plc has issued a special stamp mark which will be available at the Victoria post office.
The Gozo diocese simultaneously issued a commemorative card and a set of personalised stamps that can be obtained from the bishop’s curia.
Grech will be celebrating his first mass as a Cardinal in Gozo on 6 December, at the Xewkija Rotunda at 5pm. In Malta, his first Mass will be at St John’s Co-Cathedral on 9 December at 5.30pm.
On 7 December, he will be meeting the Maltese bishops and civil authorities.
Photos: L’Osservatore Romano
MESSAGE FROM HIS EMINENCE MARIO GRECH
ON THE DAY OF HIS CREATION AS CARDINAL
My dear Gozitan and Maltese brethren,
I must confess I was somewhat surprised at the reaction of our people when Pope Francis announced that he was going to make me a member of the College of Cardinals of the Church. I learned that not a few said they wept for joy when they heard the Pope utter the name of one of their brothers! I suppose Francis’ call resounded in many people’s hearts and its echo spread throughout homes, workplaces, hospitals, streets and elsewhere, bringing with it consolation and hope. Many felt a sense of gratification, because since the Pope thought of us too while considering the “consistory” (the highest body of the Church he consults with), that meant he knows about us and respects us!
I am saying this not in a spirit of boastfulness but rather in appreciation of much good there is among us, not only as a Church but also as a country; with a sense of gratitude too, for all those who have gone before us, in the Church and in civil society; and with a sense of the responsibility incumbent upon us to enhance the good that we have, while weeding out the negative elements which raise their head from time to time.
The breath of fresh air which swept down upon us with this news means that the Church is still relevant to Maltese and Gozitans alike. In spite of all its mistakes and defects, the Church is still rooted in the hearts of our people. The indications are that there is still place for the Church among us. Had it not still been relevant, would there have been so many who follow the Pope’s message at midday on Sunday, and pray the Angelus with him? Had the Church not still meant something for Maltese and Gozitans alike, would there have been all this interest in the Pope’s choices?
Naturally there is a “model” of the Church and a style of ecclesial life whose time has disappeared; it is also true to say that if we do not pay attention, our words will fall on deaf ears. But when it comes to the crunch, our people know how to express their faith. As Pope Francis writes, when the people of God “believe, they are not mistaken, even if they do not find words adequate enough to express their faith” (EG, 119).
It is therefore important for the flame of faith in Christ to keep burning within our hearts and in our families. This recent reaction is a clear indication that Christ still dwells among us. Even if we would like to see the divide between faith and practical life recede, and our share in liturgical life get better as far as numbers and quality are concerned, I believe that Christ still evokes in us crucial questions. I believe that even those who grew up in the Church but who have now “left” it, have still not abandoned Jesus. I say this because even such persons showed their appreciation of this event.
In order to reinforce our Christian faith, I would urge you to heed my brothers, your Bishops. Unity with the bishop is the guarantee against error when it comes to discerning what the Spirit wants to communicate to our Churches in Malta and Gozo. In the words of Pope Francis, “what is important is for us not to walk alone, for us to rely always on our brethren and especially on the guidance of our Bishops in a pastoral discernment which is wise and realistic” (EG, 33).
My desire is that the positive feeling experienced in recent days be transformed into a prayer for me, that in my fragility I may be a worthy instrument. The word “cardinal” is derived from cardine which means the pivot on which everything turns. Thus I have been called to this office so that as a cardinal I may help the Church to be that pivot in order for it to continue helping men enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ: he is the foundation upon which our individual and collective lives rest. I am convinced that if Christ is the centre of our life, important reforms will follow; but no reform can be brought about (in our personal life, in family, social, political. economic and ecclesial life) if this foundation is missing.
These are my wishes for you, dear Gozitan and Maltese brethren. Through the intercession of our father, St Paul, who started us off on our way to Jesus, and through that of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu, who supports us with her maternal love in taking small steps on the road to discipleship, I pray for God’s blessing upon you.
At Vatican City, 28th November 2020
Mario Cardinal Grech