Archbishop Joseph Spiteri’s name ‘most touted inside Vatican corridors’

Informed sources close to the Vatican told MaltaToday that Archbishop Joseph Spiteri’s name has become the “most touted name inside Vatican corridors” since last month.

Archbishop Joseph Spiteri
Archbishop Joseph Spiteri

Three months down the line following the resignation of Paul Cremona as Archbishop of Malta, a new successor to lead the Maltese Church has not yet been named.

But informed sources close to the Vatican told MaltaToday that Archbishop Joseph Spiteri’s name has become the “most touted name inside Vatican corridors” since last month.

Spiteri, appointed Titular Archbishop of Serta in 2009, is 55 – just five days younger than Apostolic Administrator Charles Scicluna, and is currently serving in a Holy See diplomatic mission in Ivory Coast.

Apostolic Nuncio Aldo Cavalli, the Holy See’s envoy in Malta, has finalised a three-month process during which he met Maltese bishops, diocesan priests, religious people and laymen to discuss the role of the archbishop. The Apostolic Nuncio left Malta with the ‘terna’ of names who could be Malta’s next archbishop.

All those who were consulted by the Nuncio are bound by secrecy, which in Canon Law is known as ‘Sub-Secreto Pontificio’.

Another name which is often rumoured in Malta is that of Charles Scicluna. Insiders however claim that it is highly unlikely that Scicluna will be the next Archbishop: not only was he recently appointed by the Vatican as President of the Special College for the Review of Appeals, but, as the Vatican’s former chief prosecutor on sex abuse by the clergy, he is considered as one of the most formidable lawyers to ever serve the post.

Two other names touted in Malta are Gozo Bishop Mario Grech, President of the Maltese Episcopal Conference, and Salesian priest Fabio Attard, whose name was in the terna when Paul Cremona was chosen as Archbishop.

The process in Malta is now being scrutinised by the Congregation of Bishops in Rome, led by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, that considers the documentation provided by the Nuncio, taking his opinion into consideration without being bound by it. The congregation prepares its nominations for the Pope’s approval.

Cardinal Ouellet has two choices: either approve the Nuncio’s work or restart the whole process.

“Cardinal Ouellet meets the Pope once a month during which the list of nominees is presented. Traditionally, the first name on the list is the one with the biggest probability of being chosen. However, the Pope can also choose a completely different name,” the sources said.

Following the Pope’s approval, the Congregation informs the Apostolic Nuncio of the Pope’s decision, who in turn would immediately call for the anointed one.

Asked why the process was taking so long, the sources explained that the process is what it is: “This is about choosing an Archbishop. A lot of research takes place, information collected while everything has to remain under wraps. Sometimes this process took years, other times it was over in a few months. I personally think that the announcement is imminent… If it is so, then this process would have been short.”

With 10 February round the corner, there are renewed rumours that the new Archbishop may soon be announced. 10 February, the Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck, is considered to be the birth of Christianity in Malta. However, the sources believe that the Roman Curia is not as “parochial” as to bind itself with particular feasts.

“Thinking that the Holy See may be waiting for 10 February to announce the new Archbishop is like thinking we still live in Brescello during Don Camillo’s era… The Maltese Archdiocese is waiting for its new Archbishop and we will only know this when the second phase of this laborious process is finalised.

“The Archbishop will be announced when Pope Francis gives his approval.”

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