Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Archbishop Emeritus of Malta dies.

Archbishop Joseph Mercieca (1928-2016)
Archbishop Joseph Mercieca was born in Victoria on the island of Gozo in Malta. He was baptised on 14 November 1928 and received the other sacraments at the parish church of St George in Victoria. 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 by Joseph Pace, the Bishop of Gozo at St James' Church in Victoria, Gozo. In 1958, he was chosen to be the rector of the Gozo Major Seminary. In 1969 Father Mercieca was appointed, by Pope Paul VI, to judge the Roman Rota.

Five years later Pope Paul VI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Malta to assist Archbishop Gonzi. He was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Mikiel Gonzi on the feast of St Michael in St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta. Succeeding the said Msgr. Gonzi as archbishop of the metropolitan see of Malta on December 12, 1976, during his thirty years in office, Mercieca - who was virtually unknown before his episcopal appointment - managed to restore stability in the Maltese Church after the bruising political dispute with the Labour Party in the Gonzi years. Threading carefully a new dispute with the Labour government during the 1980's regarding Church schools and church property, he maintained his characteristic tranquillity when he was twice surrounded by angry mobs, when a bomb was placed outside his residence in Mdina, and when the curia was ransacked, ensuring to a large extent that the long-lasting divisions of the 1960's would not return anew. He spent the next thirty years as the spiritual shepherd of the Archdiocese of Malta.

1976, myself as a deacon with Archbishop Gonzi and Mercieca at his consecration
Mecieca is credited with restoring stability in the Maltese church following Gonzi's dispute with the Malta Labour Party in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1995, he was appointed a member of the Xirka Gieh ir-Repubblika. Mercieca offered his resignation to Pope John Paul II on 11 November 2003. He remained Archbishop until 2 December 2006, and was succeeded by Paul Cremona in January 2007. Archbishop Mercieca had a brother who is also a priest serving in his home parish of St. George in Victoria. Mercieca retired from the pastoral government of his see on December 2, 2006, passing away after years of failing health aged 87. The funeral will be held on Wednesday March 23, and he will be buried in the Mdina Cathedral. Archbishop Emeritus Mercieca is the bishop who ordained me and my 13 classmates in June 1977.
Mercieca, 2nd from left with the Long Island Bishop, John McGann in 1990
Archbishop Mercieca with Pope St John Paul II

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