Saturday, January 27, 2007

Island Party

Yesterday, Malta celebrated as native son and local pastor Paul Joseph Cremona OP was ordained the Catholic mecca's 12th home-grown archbishop.

It was a double celebration in Valletta's Co-Cathedral of St John the Baptist: Cremona turned 61 the day before. Born in the city, he was ordained for the Order of Friars Preachers in 1969 and after studied in Rome returned to the island where he served as superior of the Dominicans there and in various diocesan posts before becoming a parish pastor in 2005. (The ring given the archbishop yesterday was a gift of his confreres.)

Oh, and it's said that his doctoral dissertation in theology looked at "the Concept of Peace" in the life and ministry of Bl John XXIII.

A blog on the island has full coverage (including the commemorative postage stamps released for the occasion), and there's a Flickr page, whence these shots come. Cremona was driven into the city in an open-topped car, after which the lavish ordination liturgy took place, presided over by retiring Archbishop Giuseppe Mercieca, standing down after three decades at the helm.

(For the record, I can't read Maltese for the life of me but, if you can, here's a link to the new archbishop's remarks at the end of Mass.)

Cremona kicked off his big week by starting a dialogue with the young people of the diocese.
"My youth was a happy time, but there wasn't much to do really. We used to go to Valletta's Upper Barrakka or stroll up and down Strada Rjali (Republic Street)," he reminisced. "Guess what time we had to be in," he asked. "Eight o'clock and if we didn't it was trouble... They were different times."

The occasion was a tour de force he made in the heart of Malta's entertainment industry in an evident bid to open a dialogue with youth.

He first visited Paceville, followed by a programme at the St Julians parish church and then back again to Paceville, on foot, accompanied by a loyal flock of people, youngsters and clergy, who turned up for the event.

Speaking of his calling as a priest, he said he felt something very early on but he could not explain it. "For instance, I never had a steady girlfriend. You know you would have sympathies but it's as though I felt that my calling was for a different path. Frankly, I cannot really explain it. It's like when you ask someone who is about to get married why her or him, for instance, and they can't explain."

Besides issues pertaining to the Church, such Holy Mass and the possibility of making it more lively, the youngsters present asked about social issues including how the Church could reconcile its philosophy in respect to the poor with its material riches but also regarding the price of property.

On the first issue, he said that while he believed the Church could not do away with the riches of its churches as this was heritage, it should and could have the courage to say no to people who are willing to add more to what there already is. He even recounted how he once refused a man's offer to have a new gold ornament installed in the parish church he was attached to.
Looks like yet another textbook B16 appointment.