Guzeppi Mercieca, archbishop who held sway for 30 years, passes away

Archbishop emeritus Joseph Mercieca, who was the head of the Maltese archdiocese for just over three decades, has died aged 87 • Prime Minister announces three days of national mourning 

Archbishop Guzeppi Mercieca has passed away aged 87
Archbishop Guzeppi Mercieca has passed away aged 87
A young Guzeppi Mercieca
A young Guzeppi Mercieca
Mgr Guzeppi Mercieca meets Pope Benedict
Mgr Guzeppi Mercieca meets Pope Benedict
Mgr Mercieca meets Pope John Paull II
Mgr Mercieca meets Pope John Paull II
Mgr Mercieca meets Mother Teresa
Mgr Mercieca meets Mother Teresa
Mgr Mercieca meets Pope John Paul II
Mgr Mercieca meets Pope John Paul II
Mgr Mercieca with Pope John Paul I
Mgr Mercieca with Pope John Paul I

Archbishop emeritus Guzeppi Mercieca passed away this morning, aged 87.

Mercieca was born in Victoria, Gozo, in November 1928. He entered the Gozo seminary to study for the priesthood but continued his studies in Rome at the Gregorian university and the Lateran university. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1952, and in 1958, he was chosen to be the rector of the Gozo Major Seminary.



In 1969, Mercieca was appointed, by Pope Paul VI, to judge the Roman Rota, the highest appellate tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1974, Pope Paul VI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Malta to assist Archbishop Michael Gonzi. After Archbishop Gonzi retired in 1976, Bishop Mercieca succeeded him. He spent the next thirty years as the spiritual leader the Archdiocese of Malta. 

Mercieca retired aged 75, in 2006.

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Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced three days of national mourning, during which the Maltese flag will fly at half mast on government buildings.

“Mercieca will be remembered for his commitment towards regenerating the Catholic Church’s internal structures, bringing it closer to the public,” Muscat said. “Mercieca was appointed archbishop at a very delicate moment in history, and he had realized that it was in everybody’s best interests that the Church serve as a point of dialogue with society and open its doors to a wider number of Maltese and Gozitan people.” 

During the swearing-in ceremony of the new ombudsman, President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca paid tribute to Mercieca, who she called a peacekeeper during a difficult phase in the country's history. 

"It is with great displeasure that we received the news earlier today. He served his office to the best of his ability and he was a figure of mediation between the state and the church."

Alfred Sant and Mgr Guzeppi Mercieca
Alfred Sant and Mgr Guzeppi Mercieca

Former Labour prime minister Alfred Sant expressed sadness at news of Mercieca’s passing way.

He described Mercieca as “a cordial, cautious and correct person who chose prudence in the way of doing things”.

“I always appreciated the frankness with which he spoke to me even if he tried not to offend me in any way with his words and actions,” Sant said.

He recalled how in 1997, before the then Labour government announced a study about divorce and the family in Malta, he had personally called on Mercieca to discuss the government’s plans.

“He recommended prudence but accepted that government had every right to legislate what was being recommened at that time, when on the social front, things were different from today,” Sant said.

Mercieca had also visited Sant twice in hospital when he was operated: “In his humility, Mons Mercieca would, on more than one occasion, make private visits to patients at different hospitals.”

Both the Labour and Nationalist Parties saluted Mercieca’s memory, recalling him as a bridge-builder between the Church and society. The PN went on to recall Mercieca’s defence of the Church during the more turbulent times.

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