The funeral of Cardinal Prosper Stanley Grech, who died on December 30, was held at 11:30 am on January 2, 2020, reported the Italian edition of “Vatican News.”
Present at the liturgy — which was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in the Vatican Basilica, by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals –, was the President of Malta, George Vella.
At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis presided over the funeral rite of the final Commendatio and Valedictio.
Cardinal Re’s Homily
In his homily, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re spoke of the surprise that often accompanies the news of the death of a loved one, something that happened in the case of Cardinal Prosper Grech.
“On Christmas Eve he was here, in this Basilica, celebrating Mass with the Holy Father. On Monday of this week, he was, as usual, at table with the Augustinian community, conversing with his affable character and, a few hours later, the Lord called him,” pointed out “Vatican News.”
His was a sudden death, but it didn’t find him “unprepared,” continued Cardinal Re, because his age, 94, and his consecrated life to God in Saint Augustine’s Order had him “waiting for the last call.”
Study and Teaching
The Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals highlighted the fact that study and the teaching of Theology were at the center of the deceased’s existence, “in full fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church,” first in his homeland, Malta, and then in various Roman and British Universities.
In addition, Cardinal Grech published many articles and volumes dedicated in particular to the hermeneutic of Sacred Scripture and Patristics (study of the life, works, and doctrine of the Church Fathers).
Born in Malta in 1925, at 18 he entered Saint Augustine’s Order taking the name Prosper. He was ordained a priest in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in 1950.
In the early 60’s he came to the Vatican as Secretary of Bishop Pietro Canisio Van Lierde, the Holy Father’s Vicar General for Vatican City, and as Papal Sacristan.
Subsequently, he was a Consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, together with the then Cardinal Ratzinger. In addition, he was a member of the Pontifical Theological Academy, of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Patristics Association.
In addition to teaching and study, Cardinal Grech “always found time to carry out an intense pastoral activity in Saint Monica’s Chapel, open to the public, where he was also available to hear confessions,” said Cardinal Re.
Pope Benedict XVI created him Cardinal in the Consistory of February 2012, assigning him the Diakonia of Saint Mary Goretti and promoting him simultaneously to the episcopate.
Passion for Saint Augustine’s Teachings
Cardinal Re also pointed out Cardinal Grech’s passion for Saint Augustine’s teachings. “On several occasions, he affirmed that Saint Augustine, especially in the book of his Confessions, talks about himself, about his experience, however, ‘as it is the experience that man lives in every age, then on reading Saint Augustine we read something about ourselves, about the problems of the Church today, about the problems of society, about relations between the State and the Church, and so on, because, suffice to read any work of Saint Augustine, one always finds something that speaks directly to the heart.’”
Finally, the Dean described him as “a Religious of great doctrine and profound spirituality, who loved the Church and the religious life but, above all, who always put God in the first place and above all.”
The College of Cardinals
With the death of Cardinal Grech, the College of Cardinals now has 223 Cardinals, of whom 124 are Electors and 99 Non-Electors.
There are 24 Religious Orders represented, but none now of Saint Augustine’s Order. Cardinal Grech was also the only Cardinal of Malta. There are 90 countries represented in the College. The European countries have been reduced to 25 Cardinals, pointed out “Vatican News” in Italian.