A friendship soldered with the canonisation of Dun Ġorġ
As the newly ordained Fr Charles Scicluna broke bread and blessed wine, the friends who had joined him in celebrating Mass at Dun Ġorġ Preca’s Santa Venera home closed their eyes in prayer.
To the 27-year-old Fr Scicluna, the ceremony represented a high point in his spiritual journey alongside Dun Ġorġ’s MUSEUM foundation.
Little did he know that a decade later, he would find himself in Rome, as the leading champion for the beatification of the man many considered Malta’s second apostle.
“It was extremely moving,” Natalino Camilleri said as he recalled that summer 1986 Mass. “It was undoubtedly a special moment for all of us, but especially for him”.
The two men had come to know each other when they were little more than boys. “We got to know each other personally in the summer of 1979, when I was 17 and he started attending the MUSEUM Centre at Lija”
The fresh-faced Charles Scicluna, already juggling studies at Rabat’s seminary with a law degree at the University, started making time to sit in on MUSEUM classes.
For the bookish young Charles, the education-based MUSEUM environment immediately felt attractive. “I think that’s what drew him towards MUSEUM. He’s always been very, very assiduous, with a love for knowledge,” Mr Camilleri said.
“I remember him going up to London in the summer of 1983 to spend days in archives looking up documents to work on his law thesis.”
When he did not have his nose buried in a book, Charles could often be found walking in the countryside or swimming at Ġnejna Bay.
He never became a MUSEUM member, “but he’d sit in and participate. He eventually even gave a few lectures himself, when he was still enrolled in the seminary, in moral theology”.
The two men would grow closer over the years, with the elder Charles occasionally giving his younger friend a lift to University on his old Yamaha 80 motorcycle.
Years passed, Charles became Fr Charles, and he and Mr Camilleri, though still close, began living their own lives.
Mr Camilleri became a biology teacher but remained active within MUSEUM: Fr Charles moved to Rome, to work at the Signatura.
It was misfortune that brought them closer together, when Fr Mark Said was forced to resign his post as Postulator of Dun Ġorġ’s cause due to poor health.
Energetic, familiar with MUSEUM and Dun Ġorġ, with a legal background and in Rome, Fr Charles was the ideal replacement. “It was Fr Mark himself who suggested him,” Mr Camilleri recalled. “And he took to the role like a fish to water, pushing his cause and putting it back on track.”
Within five years, Dun Ġorġ was beatified.
Both men rose within their respective ranks. By the time Dun Ġorġ was canonised, Fr Charles had become Vatican prosecutor Mgr Scicluna, and Mr Camilleri was two years away from being made the MUSEUM’s superior general.
John Formosa was the society’s secretary general at the time. “Mgr Scicluna was extremely helpful, always alert and efficient. He’s an active sort – the kind of man who knows what he wants and works towards getting it done,” he said.
They, like several other MUSEUM hands, were watching yesterday’s ordination with bated breath. But the well-wishers missed one notable presence: Abel Giglio, the former MUSEUM member who saw the young Charles flourish, passed away last week.
Mr Camilleri thanked his friend, Charles. “We’re grateful for his help throughout the process leading to Dun Ġorġ’s sainthood and for his work over the years. I have no doubt he’ll give the Maltese diocese the same sort of service.”