[WATCH] Bishop Mario Grech becomes Cardinal in Vatican ceremony

Mario Grech, 63, is made Cardinal in Vatican Consistory

Bishop becomes Cardinal: Mario Grech kneels before Pope Francis
Bishop becomes Cardinal: Mario Grech kneels before Pope Francis

The former Bishop of Gozo, Mario Grech, 63, has been made Cardinal by Pope Francis, at a Concistory in the Vatican that welcomed a total of 13 new Cardinals.

Grech, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops and Bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Gozo, was decked in the distinctive red robes worn by the men who are called to serve the Roman Catholic pontiff in a special way: to the point of giving their own blood, as the red dress symbolizes – usque ad sanguinis effusionem.

Apart from Grech, the Cardinals included Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington; Archbishop Celestino Aós Braco of Santiago, Chile; Archbishop Antoine Kambanda of Kigali, Rwanda; Cornelius Sim, the Apostolic Vicar of Brunei; and Jose F. Advincula of Capiz, Philippines.

The Italian names on the list were Archbishop Augusto Paolo Lojudice; Fra Mauro Gambetti, Custos of the Sacred Convent of Assisi; Bishop Marcello Semeraro; Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980.

Alongside Cantalamessa, the Pope named three others who will receive the biretta but will be unable to vote in Conclaves because they are over 80 years of age. They are Bishop Emeritus Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico; Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Permanent Observer Emeritus to the United Nations Office and Specialized Agencies in Geneva; and Msgr. Enrico Feroci, parish priest of Santa Maria del Divino Amore in Rome.

The new Cardinals will concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

For Grech, like the other Cardinal-designates announced by Pope Francis, the news was unexpected. He told Vatican News that when he heard the news he was going through Via Giulia and the Chiesa dello Santo Spirito, the Church dedicated to the Holy Spirit, where the first thing he did was to go into the Church for the devotion to the Divine Mercy. There, “I thanked the Lord for his mercy and I prayed that this new ministry may help me to be a minister of mercy to the world,” Grech told Vatican News.

Two Cardinals, Sim of Brunei and Advincula of the Philippines – were unable to make it to the Eternal City. Travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 grounded them at their homes in Asia. They will receive their distinctive insignia, but at a later date.

Cardinals Sim and Advincula joined the celebration, participating remotely from their dioceses, through a digital platform connecting them with St Peter’s Basilica. A representative of Pope Francis would present them with the red hat – the “biretta” – the cardinal’s ring and title connected with a Roman parish “at a time to be decided later.”

Grech’s message on Facebook

Grech yesterday reaffirmed the relevance of the Catholic Church for Maltese and Gozitans alike, in a status he posted to Facebook.

“In spite of all its mistakes and defects, the Church is still rooted in the hearts of our people. The indications are that there is still place for the Church among us. Had it not still been relevant, would there have been so many who follow the Pope’s message at midday on Sunday, and pray the Angelus with him? Had the Church not still meant something for Maltese and Gozitans alike, would there have been all this interest in the Pope’s choices?”

Grech asked for prayers so that “in [his] fragility I may be a worthy instrument.”.

“I have been called to this office so that as a cardinal I may help the Church to be that pivot in order for it to continue helping men enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ: he is the foundation upon which our individual and collective lives rest. I am convinced that if Christ is the centre of our life, important reforms will follow; but no reform can be brought about, in our personal life, in family, social, political, economic and ecclesial life, if this foundation is missing.”

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