Archbishop refusing to close ranks with PN - Victor Axiak

Archbishop being 'crucified' for refusing to have 'Church be pulled one way or the other to the tune of some political group', former head of the Church’s environment commission says

Criticism is mounting from within over the leadership of Archbishop Paul Cremona
Criticism is mounting from within over the leadership of Archbishop Paul Cremona

The former head of the Church’s environment commission, Victor Axiak, has denounced attempts to criticise the leadership of Archbishop Paul Cremona, saying the Catholic leader is under fire because he has refused to align the church to “some political group” – ostensibly, the Nationalist Party.

In an opinion he penned in the Times, Axiak said: “The Church… will not be rendered vibrant and kicking if it resumes its ‘local mission’ of religio et patria [historically the Nationalist Party’s emblem] and of allowing itself to be pulled one way or the other to the tune of some political group.”

Axiak, who currently sits on the MEPA board, was reacting to the debate sparked by cleric Fr Joe Borg – formerly a member of the PBS editorial board – who wrote that the Maltese Church’s leadership “is in a worse situation than that of the Nationalist Party after the 1976 general election” when former PN leader George Borg Olivier refused to resign.

For weeks, opinion writers have taken to different newspapers to express their criticism of the Church’s leadership – or lack of it – over the past years, after the blow suffered in the divorce referendum.

Archbishop Paul Cremona has receded from the public eye and was conspicuously absent from a number of public debates, especially the civil unions discussions.

Axiak added that in the past few years “we have witnessed the crucifixion of Paul Cremona because he was not ready to play such a dirty game.”

In further comments, theologian Fr Rene Camilleri, who lives together with the Archbishop in his residency in Attard said the turbulence within the Maltese archdiocese had long been coming.

“I live with the Archbishop and we respect each other, but we cannot remain in denial anymore over the widespread unrest among the clergy. The feeling that there is a leadership vacuum is widespread and very real,” Camilleri said.

Camilleri who was appointed by Cremona to head the secretariat for catechesis said that a report proposing reforms within the Church’s structure was shelved after it was handed to the Archbishop last year.

Accusing the current leadership of “inertia,” Camilleri said none of the reforms included in the report was implemented or even discussed.

In comments to MaltaToday sociologist Fr Joe Inguanez said “I honestly feel that the Maltese Church is at a standstill.  This is always dangerous but much more so in times of the rapid change we are experiencing at both the ecclesial and social sphere.”

“One cannot stop one’s boat in a flowing river. Critical decisions need to be taken urgently. However, blood-letting is not a solution. While every Christian has to take an action – even through the promotion of healthy public opinion – the institutional leadership of the Church needs a shakeup.”