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I promise to give my life to you all – Mgr Scicluna

Mgr Scicluna lowers his head in prayer as the litany of supplication is sung in John’s Co-Cathedral yesterday. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Mgr Scicluna lowers his head in prayer as the litany of supplication is sung in John’s Co-Cathedral yesterday. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

A smile still lighting up his eyes, Mgr Charles Scicluna solemnly walked up the aisle of St John’s Co-Cathedral to be anointed as one of Malta’s new shepherds.

Our Lord is entrusting you with what is most precious

In his first words at the end of his Episcopal Ordination as Auxiliary Bishop, the diminutive bishop cracked a joke about his height.

“I have a short message for you – don’t expect big things from me,” he said, as a ripple of applause burst the sombre mood when he gave a short speech at the end of the ceremony.

The 53-year-old bishop assured Archbishop Paul Cremona he would carve the words he spoke during the homily in the scripture of his life for the good of all.

The two-and-a-half-hour ceremony was peppered with metaphors depicting Mgr Scicluna as a shepherd, who, alongside the Archbishop – who has experienced health problems in recent months – will lead the Church in Malta.

Referring to St John’s gospel, Mgr Cremona spoke of the value of the sheep at the centre of the parable and in his homily called on Mgr Scicluna to cherish the responsibility of being entrusted to guide the sheep.

“Our dignity as bishops derives from the fact that we are at the service of the dignity of the people entrusted to our care. Today, our Lord is entrusting you with what is most precious to him – the human being,” he said.

“It is a great honour and a sign of God’s great trust that He first chooses the Church and then some of its members, and entrusts them with the care of human beings. This is what he is entrusting you with today.

“The episcopate is not a point of arrival but a way of perfection for those chosen.”

The homily was followed by the recital of the mandate from the Apostolic See opening the rite of his ordination that acceded to the Archbishop’s request for help with island’s pastoral needs.

The ancient rule of the holy fathers ordains that a bishop-elect is to undergo a formal interrogation in the presence of the people on his resolve to uphold the faith, to which Mgr Scicluna replied in a steady voice.

Laying prostate on the floor, Mgr Scicluna rested his head on a red velvet cushion and buried himself in prayer as the litany of supplication was sung, calling for divine mercy to descend on the bishop-elect.

The bishops present then laid their hands on Mgr Scicluna’s head without saying a word – the silence was only broken by the clicks of photographers’ cameras.

The ceremony is steeped in tradition and as Mgr Scicluna knelt before the Archbishop, he was anointed with oil and presented with the Book of Gospels to go and preach the Word of God with patience and sound teaching.

The Archbishop also slipped a ring on Mgr Scicluna’s right hand as a seal of fidelity to preserve, unblemished, the bride of god – the holy Church. Finally, he was presented with the mitre, signifying his resolve to pursue holiness, and the pastoral staff or crosier to watch over the flock.

This was the time for a smile to reappear on the cherub-like face of the new Auxiliary Bishop, as he kissed and embraced the bishops, receiving an especially big bear hug from Cardinal Prospero Grech, who was also ordained at the Vatican this year.

Cardinal Grech was in Malta, together with Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, on the invitation of Mgr Scicluna. Many more were invited to attend but Mgr Scicluna’s ordination coincided with a consistory at the Vatican where the Pope appointed six new cardinals.

At the end of the ceremony, Mgr Scicluna switched between Maltese, English and Italian to thank all the bishops who flew to Malta to be by his side, reserving the final appreciation for the best gift from God – that his parents were still alive to witness this moment.

“I promise to give my life to you all,” he said.

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