‘He’ll be like our own Pope John XXIII’
As the bells pealed at noon the sound of solemn organ music filled the air and some 300 priests and friars spilled out of St John’s Co-Cathedral.
The Episcopal ordination ceremony had come to an end: priests in their black cassocks and collars and friars donning grey and brown habits milled on the sides of the parvis, waiting for the new Auxiliary Bishop to emerge from the church.
The sea of black was only interrupted by two bursts of red: Mgr Prospero Grech, Malta’s only cardinal, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster.
Their colours contrasted against the pale stone facade of the Cathedral, a detail that did not escape a tourist filming the whole scene in St John’s square. “Isn’t this such a typical Maltese landscape?” she gushed.
A Maltese woman standing beside them turned to explain, with sheer enthusiasm, that Mgr Scicluna was good news for the Church in Malta.
“He’s the one who got us a saint, Dun Ġorġ – have you heard of him?” she asked.
Their conversation was abruptly interrupted as the small crowd of well-wishers broke into a cheer.
Archbishop Paul Cremona – in purple robes – walked out of the cathedral flanked by his new right-hand man, Mgr Scicluna, donning his new purple cape.
Visibly moved, Mgr Scicluna blessed the gathered crowd as he descended the cathedral steps to climb into the waiting car.
Most of the well-wishers were passers-by, who, laden with shopping bags, took a break from their errands to watch the ceremony on the big screen outside.
Among them were Sr Rosalinda and Sr Regina of the Good Shepherd.
“We just had to stop and watch this, it is such a moving moment.”
They sang Mgr Scicluna’s praises: “He is so bright, so intelligent. Did you know that he’s a lawyer too?” said Sr Rosalinda.
“I think he will offer such good help to Archbishop Cremona,” said Sr Regina.
Others visited the city specifically to welcome the new bishop. Mark Debono, 25, from San Ġwann, wearing a hoodie and sporting a tattoo on his forearm, had been following the ceremony since 9am.
He counted his wooden rosary beads as he leant on the barrier. “With the help of the rosary I am trying to make this ordination ceremony a spiritual experience,” he said.
He explained he was on “a path of discernment”, which meant he had the vocation and was trying to figure out which order to join.
The fact he was one of a handful of young people in the square did not worry him:.
“God works in mysterious ways, I trust in Him... and in Mgr Scicluna’s gift of intelligence.”
According to Emmanuel Gauci, 66, from Qormi, Mgr Scicluna should have been given this role some time ago.
“He is going to be just like Pope John XXIII – he’s just like him, always smiling.”
He said the three bishops – Mgrs Grech, Cremona and Scicluna – made “the perfect trio” and it was up to the flock to cooperate with them.
Charles Bartolo, 67 and Tania Bartolo, 61, from Swieqi felt compelled to watch the ceremony in Valletta after seeing Mgr Scicluna on television. “He stole our hearts. He sounds just like what the Church needs: intelligent, charismatic and full of fun,” they said.
John and Carmen Mangion, from Qormi, said they still have a copy of Mgr Scicluna’s first writings from when he was in Form 2.
“Together with his friends he had issued a newsletter called Stimulus and we still have that copy,” said Ms Mangion.
Having lived in Qormi for 17 years, they knew Mgr Scicluna well: “Nafuħ żgħir, imma għadu żgħir,”(“We knew him when he was small, and he is still small”) quipped Mr Mangion as he affectionately referred to his diminutive stature.
They rejoiced at his appointment because he is so “sharp”. “There’s no chance of him being manipulated: everything will be black or white from now on,” they said.
• Mgr Scicluna: “I am very grateful for the people’s support and the prayers... and for The Times’s coverage. Keep it up.”
• Cardinal Prospero Grech: “I enjoyed this ordination much more than my own because this is truly useful for Malta and you won’t find a better person than Charles Scicluna.”
• Archbishop Paul Cremona: “I’m thankful I have someone to help me and that he is doing it with so much joy and is so happy to be here. We have already started working together and I can already see that we complement each other – next week we will be sitting down and planning our roles.”