Archbishop’s pointed Independence homily: ‘Leadership must be open to public scrutiny’

From accountability to governance, the Law of the Sea and migration, Charles J. Scicluna’s Independence Day homily hits home with a pointed message

Archbishop Charles Scicluna delivering the homily at the traditional Independence Day mass celebrated at St John's Co-Cathedral
Archbishop Charles Scicluna delivering the homily at the traditional Independence Day mass celebrated at St John's Co-Cathedral

Malta’s archbishop Charles J. Scicluna sent political leaders a timely warning as part of his Independence Day homily, demanding that they no longer treat the State as a ‘Big Brother’ to its electors.

Scicluna, never one to shy away from speaking his mind on national occasions, marked Malta’s 55th anniversary of Independence by calling on its “stewards” to take of their household and not abuse it at will.

“He is a servant and is called to serve and not to be served. He is called to dedicate his life for the good of others and will shun any temptation to abuse his authority for personal gain, profit or advantage,” Scicluna pointedly said of the country’s leadership.

“Accountability requires leadership to be open to public scrutiny and censure. Accountability is the antidote to that sense of impunity that makes a mockery of leadership as service and of democracy as an expression of the rule of law.

“The steward leader, in a democracy worthy of the name, knows too well that he is accountable to the people he serves both politically and legally. He will embrace politics as a service to the common good and will respect the fact that he is not above the law.”

Scicluna gave an even more critical assessment of Malta’s state of democracy, saying the island-nation had to “move from the passive quasi-parasitic dependence on the State as the Big Brother of Orwellian fame to a proactive co-ownership of the instruments of the State”.

Scicluna said Independence Day should challenge Maltese citizens to develop “a true sense of the state” and for voters to grow out of what he called the “atavistic sense of entitlement at the hand of a benevolent despot” – a reference to Malta’s colonial past – and instead take up the challenge to be co-stewards in the running of the state.

“This place is uncomfortable because, to paraphrase the wisdom of US President John F. Kennedy, being true and loyal citizens of an independent country means that we ask ourselves first and foremost what we need to do for our country rather than what our country needs to do for us,” Scicluna said.

The archbishop also said Independence Day should Malta to account as to how it fulfilled its call to stewardship, or better governance, on the international level. “The globalisation of challenges on the economic and environmental level calls for a globalisation of stewardship that runs counter to the petty narrow-minded populist rhetoric that puts the interest of the individual states above the wellbeing of the human family,” he said, citing as an example Malta’s role in promoting the 1967 Law of the Sea Convention.

“This globalisation of care should encourage us to play an active part on the international stage to promote a true sense of fraternity among nations,” he said, in a reference to the phenomenon of irregular migration in the Mediterranean.

“We are right in expecting that other European countries share the responsibility derived from the influx of migrants from the Southern Mediterranean shores that poses a disproportionate strain on our resources and territory, limited as they are.

“On the other hand, we owe it to the family of nations, not least to the other members of the European Union, to the Commonwealth family of nations, and to the international community, that our instruments of state and sovereign status remain at the service of the rule of law, the full respect of human rights and the stewardship of the global community.”

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