Archbishop Charles Scicluna’s beef
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Archbishop Charles Scicluna’s beef

Like several other priests I went with mixed feelings to the meeting called by Archbishop Charles Scicluna for diocesan priests yesterday. Will he deliver the beef, many asked before the meeting. We were not sure.

But he did, and big time.

I do not mainly refer to his announcement that priests who work for the diocese and are paid by it will receive an increase of €50 a month for the next couple of years or so. Priests working full time with the diocese have a very meagre remuneration. The raise announced by the Archbishop goes some way to address this injustice.

The beef was mainly wrapped in his vision for the diocese. Let me point to some random points raised during the meeting.

I was impressed though not surprised by his positive outlook for the Church’s mission of dialogue with contemporary culture. There was no hint of nostalgia or holier than thou attitude in his address. He urged all to connect with the positive signs around us; to listen to all and to dialogue with all. There was no sign of regret in his voice or non verbal demeanour because the Church has lost its position of dominance in society. He took it as a fait accompli and clearly finds it easy to live in this environment. He beckons all to do the same.

Archbishop Scicluna is very much aware of the past history of the Church in Malta. We did mistakes and we will do others in the future. This is human nature. While being conscious of the hurts that still exist, he stressed that he will not be blackmailed or held prisoner by the Church’s past to the extent that he keeps silent when silence is not pastorally mandated. He is determined to make the voice of the Church positively and vibrantly present in the public sphere. Doing otherwise would, in my opinion, be a betrayal of the Church’s mission and a great disservice to a pluralistic society which by definition only exists because of its agora is populated by diverse voices.

I particularly liked his emphasis on the role of the laity. In the formation of his team, he said, that he looks for expertise not for collars. There are tasks which have to be delivered by an ordained Catholic but there are many other roles within the Church which do not need priests or religious. For the first time two important ministries within the diocese will be headed by lay people. These are the finance and the media ministries.

Since his team is still not fully constituted one augurs that besides laymen Archbishop Scicluna will also be able to include women. His inner team will be enhanced by the presence of both a lay and of a religious woman. Their charisma and ‘genius’ (to use a phrase used by Pope St John Paul II) are sorely needed.

The kingpin of his vision is the Church’s evangelising mission. The right piano keys were pressed yesterday. The resulting music will not only depend on Archbishop Scicluna but on the effort of all pastoral operators to develop a Church in line with the direction being given by Pope Francis. Archbishop Scicluna’s stess on the magisterium of Pope Francis was very important given that several ecclesiastical cheeses are less than enthusiastic about Pope Francis.

The meeting showed that the spring I augured in my commentary in The Sunday Times of Malta on the occasion of his installation as archbishop is not only possible but has already shown its first clear signs.

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