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His undivided attention

Mgr John Kennedy. Photo: Jason Borg

Mgr John Kennedy. Photo: Jason Borg

Monsignor John Kennedy would walk into the Vatican’s chief prosecutor office and the short man sitting behind the desk would stop and listen.

Charles is a huge loss for us at the Congregation and the world Church, but an enormous gain for Malta

An Irishman from Dublin, Mgr Kennedy, 44, would want some advice on the wording of a letter dealing with a case of child abuse by a member of the clergy.

And the Maltese monsignor behind the desk, inundated with work, drawing up documents and handling a myriad of child abuse cases would give him his “undivided attention”.

This is the experience Mgr Kennedy speaks of when asked about Mgr Charles Scicluna, his former boss at the Vatican, who was yesterday officially ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Malta.

“He would give you his complete attention and focus irrespective of the mountains of paper in front of him or the issues he was dealing with from all over the world,” Mgr Kennedy says.

The two worked together for 10 years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and had daily interactions when Mgr Scicluna was appointed prosecutor in child abuse cases by the clergy.

“The answer he would give to your query would inspire confidence and you could certainly go and preach it to the world. Mgr Scicluna gave 100 per cent to everybody, on every occasion of every day,” Mgr Kennedy says.

He speaks of the unenviable role Mgr Scicluna was appointed to in 2002 by Pope John Paul II at a time when the Church was “swept by a tidal wave of child abuse scandals”.

Mgr Kennedy explains that in 2002 when Mgr Scicluna was appointed Promoter of Justice, popularly referred to as chief prosecutor, the post had been in existence but was not functional.

“The Pope chose somebody who was intellectually capable but also competent, loyal and able to perform the task entrusted to him. It was a job that could get to you but he did not let it do so,” Mgr Kennedy adds, as he recalls Mgr Scicluna’s sense of humour.

The two first crossed each other during a course, which Mgr Kennedy was attending. He says Mgr Scicluna, who taught jurisprudence in one of the course modules, was always well prepared, on top of his subject and inspired confidence.

“He also managed to explain complicated things in such a simple way that they could be understood by all,” Mgr Kennedy says of a characteristic that has been evident in the first couple of interviews Mgr Scicluna gave the Maltese media in the run-up to his ordination.

He says Mgr Scicluna’s multicultural background – he was born in Canada, lived and studied in Malta and worked in Rome – made him culturally sensitive to people.

“He would make a smooth transition between cultural attitudes when addressing people from different dioceses.”

But according to Mgr Kennedy, the Maltese priest also takes his faith seriously. He recalls that every morning in Rome, Mgr Scicluna celebrated Mass for the nuns who form part of the Order of St Brigitte of Sweden before going to work.

“Charles is a huge loss for us at the congregation and the world Church, but an enormous gain for Malta,” Mgr Kennedy says of Mgr Scicluna’s transfer to the Maltese diocese.

It is a sentiment of regret that accompanies the loss of a formidable work colleague. But it dissipates immediately.

“We wish him well,” Mgr Kennedy says, as Mgr Scicluna starts a new chapter in the corridors of the Maltese Curia in Floriana.

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