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Episcopal ordination of cardinal-elect held at St John's

Updated 8 p.m.

Mgr Prospero Grech OSA was consecrated Bishop at St John’s Co-Cathedral this evening in a ceremony led by Archbishop Paul Cremona.

The ceremony was held 10 days before Mgr Grech is appointed Cardinal by Pope Benedict.

The consecration Mass was attended by President George Abela, the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and a large congregation which included many Augustinian priests led by their Superior-General.

The rite of consecration started immediately after the reading of the Gospel with the singing, in Latin, of a prayer to the Holy Spirit. 

Mgr Grech then approached Mgr Cremona , who was sitting on his throne on the left of the altar. The Archbishop asked if the Papal decree for the episcopal ordination had been received. The decree was then read out, to applause.

Mgr Cremona in a homily said the announcement that Mgr Grech was to be made Cardinal was received with joy by the Maltese Church. Mgr Cremona spoke on how the Lord had given the apostles the right to consecrate those who succeeded them. Bishops, he said, had a central role in preaching the Gospel and being witness to the whole Church. 

Mgr Grech then stood in the centre of the alter, in front of Archbishop Cremona and the co-consecrators, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech and Cardinal-elect Giuseppe Versaldi and replied to a set of nine questions in what is known as the 'interrogation'. In a firm voice, the 83-year-old promised life-long faithfulness in his service as bishop: proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, building up the Church in union with the order of bishops under the authority of the Pope, being compassionate to the poor, to strangers, and to all in need.

The Bishop then laid  on the floor and the consecrators invoked Mary and all the saints, asking God to bless, sanctify, and consecrate Mgr Grech in what is known as the ordination litany

Archbishop Cremona followed by the two co-consecrating bishops then placed their hands on Mgr Grech's head and recited prayers for the new bishop. The gospel was placed on his head and the consecration prayer was recited..

That was followed by the anointment with holy oil and the investiture with the Ring, Mitre and Pastoral Staff, to further applause.

The rite ended with the Profession of Faith.

At the end of the Mass Archbishop Grech went down to the congregation to give his blessing.

In a short message he said he really had nothing more to say than what he told the press yesterday, and the congregation probably knew more about him, than himself! He however thanked Archbishop Cremona and the co-consacrators, co-celebrants and all present. He also thanked the choir and all the organisers of the ceremony. He said he prayed that the Holy Spirit would guide him in his work, and also joked that the couple with whom he lives in Malta had still to find his a red bedsheet - a reference to the red worn by Cardinals.

After the Mass, President Abela presented a painting  'The Three Angles of Abraham 2012' by artist John Martin Borg, to Mgr Grech.

Mgr Grech has been made Titular Archbishop of San Leone in Italy. He leaves Malta on Friday and will be the first Maltese cardinal in 220 years and the first Cardinal from the Augustinian Order in a century.

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