Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
The Church could not afford to remain enclosed within its own walls, but had to go into the streets and serve what has become a “post-Christian” society, Bishop Mario Grech exhorted today.
Bishop Grech was delivering his homily during the episcopal consecration of his successor as Bishop of Gozo, Mgr Anton Teuma, and insisted that even Gozo was in need of a missionary church.
He observed that leading a Church was often compared to navigating a boat, and that the most difficult thing to do was to change course.
“This is your mission, Jesus is trying to set a new route for his people,” Bishop Grech told Bishop Teuma, but warned that it was far from easy.
“We are moving from what had been a Christian society to a post-Christian one. It was difficult to steer the boat through those waters, let alone now,” the Bishop maintained. The number of faithful was dwindling, including in Gozo, he warned.
The gospel of the day was the biblical account of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, from which both Bishop Grech and Bishop Teuma derived their episcopal mottos.
Bishop Grech emphasised that the disciples Jesus met on the road were leaving a nascent Christian community in Jerusalem that was in a spiritual and social crisis in the wake of Jesus’ crucifixion. In the face of that crisis, the Bishop observed, that community thought it could enclose itself in the misguided belief that it would not lose anything, and failed to realise that people were leaving it.
But Jesus, he added, met the disciples leaving for Emmaus, listened to them and delivered the good news, insisting that a missionary church similarly needed to announce the good news to the faithful.
Going in the streets entailed a risk for the Church, Bishop Grech recognised.
“But it is better to have a wounded Church, than one that remains enclosed in its own walls and becomes an archaeological artefact,” he warned.
The Bishop recalled the opening of Gaudium et Spes, a pastoral constitution resulting from the Second Vatican Council, which states that “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” This sentiment was crucial to a missionary church in this day and age, he observed.
Bishop Grech also emphasised that Bishop Teuma alone would not be able to set a new direction for the Church, as his community could hinder this change.
“So let us cooperate with him, so that with his help, we can be a Church that responds to the times, and that gives hope not just to the faithful, but to all,” he concluded.
Mgr Teuma becomes 9th Bishop of Gozo
Mgr Anton Teuma formally becomes the 9th Bishop of Gozo today with his Episcopal Consecration, which has been held at the St John the Baptist Parish Church in Xewkija.
The ceremony was led Bishop Grech, flanked by Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna and Archbishop Alessandro d’Errico, the Apostolic Nuncio to Malta and Libya.
Bishop Grech stepped down last year after Pope Francis named him as the Pro-Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops last year, with the aim of succeeding the present Secretary General, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, on his retirement. However, he has stayed on as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese until his successor could be chosen.
Mgr Teuma was formally named as Bishop Grech’s successor last June, and his Episcopal Consecration was originally scheduled for next month. However, in light of concerns raised by the Covid-19 pandemic, the ceremony was moved forward.
In preparation for today’s ceremony, Bishop Grech led a prayer vigil at the Pope John Paul II Institute for the Family in Victoria on Thursday evening.