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MT 19 October 2014

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maltatoday, Sunday, 19 OctOber 2014 4 News CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Cremona's leadership came under intense pressure shortly after the divorce referendum. The costly campaign exposed a Church that could not live up to people's aspirations in a changing world: shortly after, it would prove unable to slow down the unstoppable social changes tak- ing root in Malta, which saw the in- troduction of publicly-funded IVF services, the introduction of civil unions, and gay adoptions. Cremona, a Dominican priest, was very frank and open about his deci- sion to resign, including his battle with mental health illness. "I succumbed to exhaustion two years back and had to go to Gozo. That was my first inkling. I tried my best to fulfil my obligations, but many times it was with an effort. Time is ripe for someone else to take over and I am at peace with my decision," he said. Cremona said he had wanted to personally convey the news of his resignation after writing to the Holy See a few weeks ago. "I am resigning due to health prob- lems and I know that I have made the right decision. I urge you to ac- cept it with prayer. It was an honour to lead the Maltese Church for the past eight years and I thank God for the good I carried out and for the people he surrounded me with." Cremona said he held no grudges against anyone, despite his leader- ship being openly criticised in the media, and critics from inside the Church establishment publicly complaining that the Church had been left without direction and was now at a crossroads. He admitted that the late criticism may have "accelerated" his deci- sion. "I had open and frank discussions with those who wrote in the media and I hold no grudge against them. Perhaps they accelerated [the resig- nation] a bit but it wasn't the main reason," he said. Throughout his leadership, Cre- mona was known for his unassum- ing nature and his closeness to the people. "Any leadership is based on character and I couldn't have been an Archbishop in any different way. My best moments were when I could help alleviate the suffering of others, even though I couldn't give an answer to all their questions or save them from their problems," he said. Cremona steered the Church away from political controversy but the archbishop's unwillingness to enter the fray on controversial laws for civil unions and gay adoptions in 2013, led to more criticism about the absence of the Catholic Church in social matters. Cremona however said he believed that while an Archbishop should be close to the diocese, decisions should not be based on public opin- ion. "Leadership emanates from a per- son's character. Although it may have not been important to others, I considered it important to love people, even those who might have been opponents. An archbishop has to be a man of God and that means that decisions have to be taken be- fore God and not on account of public opinion," he said. Donning a peaceful smile, the Archbishop Emeritus now looks forward to return to his Domini- can convent while remaining at the service of his successor. In a letter to the clergy dated 18 October, Cremona took the occa- sion to ask for forgiveness if he had hurt anyone. "I want you to know that I have always intended being at your service… I ask you to pray for the Church in Malta, so that the Lord takes care of it and blesses it." In his message to Cremona, Pope Francis thanked him for his work, pointing out Cremona's "spiritual closeness to the people" and ex- pressed appreciation for his "hu- manity". In his letter, Vatican envoy Cavalli said that the Holy Father thanked him for his pastoral work, "in par- ticular for your closeness to the people of God whom you sanctified with your witness as a true man of God, and through your teachings and spiritual exhortations." The Holy See also confirmed Bish- op Scicluna's appointment as Ap- ostolic Administrator until a new archbishop takes canonical posses- sion of the Archdiocese. While Scicluna has been rumoured as one of the possible successors to Cremona, he refused to entertain this idea. He was sent to Malta by the Holy See in 2012 around the time during which Cremona's health was suffering. "Fortunately for me it is the Pope who has to take such a de- cision. I could tell you to refer your question to the Holy Father, but you know..." he said jokingly. 'I know I have made the right decision' 'An archbishop has to be a man of God and that means that decisions have to be taken before God and not on account of public opinion' 'I had open and frank discussions with those who wrote in the media. I hold no grudge. Perhaps they accelerated the resignation...' PAUL CREMONA • BIOGRAPHY Monsignor Paul cremona was born in Valletta on the 25th January 1946. In September 1962, he joined the dominican Order, and professed on the 29th September 1963. He studied philosophy and theology at the college of St thomas aquinas at the dominican priory at rabat, and was ordained priest on the 22 March 1969. after his priestly ordination, Mgr cremona was sent to follow higher studies in Moral theology at the Pontifical university of St thomas aquinas in rome (angelicum) where, in 1973, he graduated doctor in theology presenting the thesis the concept of Peace in Pope John XXIII. In 1981, he was chosen Provincial of the Maltese dominican Province, an office he held for two four-year terms. On termination of office, he was entrusted with the parish of Our Lady of the rosary of Fatima in Gwardamanga as its Parish Priest. between the years 1993 and 1997, he was responsible for the formation of the dominican novices and students at rabat; an office he again held for a short period of one year between 2004 and 2005. In 2005, Mgr cremona was chosen as Parish Priest of the parish of Jesus of nazareth in Sliema. His nomination was made public on the 2nd december 2006 and he was ordained bishop on the 26th January 2007. the divorce referendum was a watershed moment for the Maltese church, exposing the weakness of both the clergy and its laymen to build a convincing front in defence of catholic morality on marriage and marital breakdown. the expensive campaign drained the leadership of morale, and soon after, auxiliary bishop charles J. Scicluna was brought to Malta from the Vatican to support the embattled episcopate. In 2013, with the secular wind in Labour's sails, the church seemed unable to manage any form of opposition against civil unions for gay couples and adoption rights.

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