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May God bless our Charlie

I am sure Bishop Charles Scicluna will forgive my heading. Firstly, because it is the true way of describing him, and, secondly, because his sense of humour and spirit of comprehension is second to none. My heading emanates from the fact that since our University days in the law course starting in 1976, my colleagues and myself have referred to His Lordship as “Ċali tagħna” (Our Charlie), as if we owned him in some way, which, in fact, many of us feel we do.

We are all proud of ‘Ċali tagħna’, in the certainty that he will be of service to us all as one of Malta’s best ever spiritual leaders
- Austin Sammut

We followed him as he moved to the priesthood, although still pursuing his law degree at a later stage. We felt so proud as he moved up the echelons of the Catholic Church, and particularly in the Holy See’s power structure. But I will try not to use “Charlie” again from now on. I remember the first day of our University days in the Faculty of Law meeting this slight, unassuming, humble, affable and charismatic young man through the good services of my friend and colleague Mario Felice (now an eminent notary, as well as many other things, past and present).

Scicluna was always a light (though it was a feeling rather than something I can describe) and an encouragement, with that typical smile on his face, and the beautiful, genuine laugh, which thank God we have come back to hearing once again. University days are great times, always to be remembered with nostalgia.

In many ways carefree and fun, particularly in our times when we congregated over several cups of coffee in the common room until late into the evening, debating everything under the sun, not least politics, of course (though today the place has perhaps grown too big for the closely knit community we had, although this is extremely positive in itself).

However, when annual exams were looming and we all retired to a 24/7 retreat in darkened rooms (not all of us – some of the girls got a beautiful pre-season tan while studying!) it became terribly stressful. Unfortunately, heavy smoking was a help. We realised that it was the moment to prove ourselves and University exams are not easy, particularly in the law course, among others.

Scicluna, always diligent and well prepared, would appear for our sittings with his familiar smile and his contagious chuckle, which imbued us with much needed courage as we walked into the examination hall, feeling as if we were going to the gallows.

And I am just at this moment seeing him being ordained bishop, and this with tears in my eyes. I know Scicluna is not enjoying this, and I will leave him by saying that we are all proud of Ċali tagħna in the certainty that he will be of service to us all as one of Malta’s best ever spiritual leaders.

His human values and progressive outlook have already been impressed on us in just a few days – very firm, but understanding. God bless you.

But to stick to my colleagues, and this is very much overdue, I am also very proud of so many of those in my law course who are now members of the judiciary. The class of ’81 has an absolute record in this. Dare I try to mention them all, and not necessarily in order of seniority. Dear colleagues please forgive me if I leave one of you out. And I am being informal out of friendship. Giannino Caruana Demajo, Ray Pace, Joe Micallef, Tonio Mallia, Joseph Zammit McKeon, Mark Chetcuti, Silvio Meli, and of course our two ladies (or Madam, as they are called, and with which term, incidentally, I disagree), Anna Felice and Lorraine Schembri Orland. What a record!

And once on the subject of judges (read Courts of Justice) please allow me to laud one of the colleagues I have mentioned above: Mr Justice Silvio Meli. His landmark judgment on the discrimination accorded to a woman who was barred from taking over her father’s job as a port worker and this just because she was a woman must be noted and noted time and time again.

This highlighted two medieval principles (which stink of serfdom, perhaps) which I hope will be done away with sooner rather than later: one, that a port worker’s licence, job or whatever is inherited in the first place, and two, that a woman cannot take it up if it comes to inheritance by order of seniority.

Well done Mr Justice. I just hope that the overdue legislation to remedy this anomalous and despicable legislation, rules, practice, or whatever is implemented without delay.

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