Malta Ready to Celebrate its 2nd Cardinal in History

Augustinian Priest Will Be Ordained a Bishop Before Consistory

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ROME, FEB. 1, 2012 ( Augustinian Father Prospero Grech will be made a cardinal in less than three week’s time, becoming the second Maltese cardinal in history. First, he needs to be ordained a bishop.

Prospero Grech has been an Augustinian brother since 1944. He was ordained a priest in 1950. The 86-year-old will receive episcopal ordination a week from today.

He follows a fellow Augustinian, Cardinal Sebastiano Martinelli, as the second Maltese cardinal. Cardinal Martinelli (1848-1918) was made a cardinal in 1901.

«Cardinalship is ordinarily linked to the episcopate. The College of Cardinals must be the Senate of the Church and every cardinal must have the fullness of the priesthood, except if a cardinal wishes to forgo this for reasons of health. I found no reason to object,» explained Father Grech in a communiqué of the Augustinian Order.

Archbishop Giuseppe Versaldi, president of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs of the Holy See, will consecrate Father Grech a bishop. He, also, will be created a cardinal in the forthcoming consistory. The other consecrating bishops will be Augustinian Archbishop Paul Cremona of Malta and Bishop Mario Grech, bishop of Gozo.

As to why Benedict XVI selected him to become a cardinal, Father Grech attributes it to the desire of the Holy Father to honor the Augustinian Order. «Three days before the announcement I was telephoned by the cardinal secretary of state who gave me the news. It took me by surprise because I didn’t expect it: I don’t think I’ve done anything special … but I think that the Holy Father, with whom I collaborated for close to 20 years in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wished also in a certain sense to make a gesture of gratitude for this service.»

For many years the cardinal-elect was a teacher in the pontifical universities and formed generations of Augustinian priests and brothers: «My area was biblical and I have always continued in this area being interested particularly in the New Testament and the theology of the New Testament.

In 1970 he was called to the Pontifical Biblical Institute, headed by the then Father Carlo Maria Martini. «I stayed at the Biblicum for 32 years speaking about the historicity of Jesus in the Gospels and related arguments.»

He is also co-founder, together with Father Agostino Trape, of the Patristicum Auugustinianum Institute, which is dedicated to helping students specialize in the study of the Fathers of the Church.

Among the forthcoming pastoral commitments of Father Grech is the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. «The topic of this next Synod of Bishops is the New Evangelization, which interests me immensely,» he said.

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