On the Feast of the Epiphany, 6 January, after reciting the Angelus at midday, Pope Benedict XVI nominated Fr Prospero Grech OSA as cardinal, nearly 200 years after the election of the first and only Maltese cardinal.
Pope Benedict also announced that a Consistory will be held to institute a number of cardinals, including Fr Grech. In a media release the Archbishop’s Curia said that it is with great joy for the people of our islands, especially the Catholic Church, that amongst them is a Maltese priest, Fr Prospero Grech Grech, a member of the Collegio Santa Monica, Rome, and of the Province of Malta. Born in Vittoriosa 86 years ago and residing in Rome, Fr Grech is an Augustinian Friar who is a highly renowned expert in Holy Scripture.
In the media release, the Maltese Bishops said they “consider this appointment as a personal tribute to Fr Grech and also a recognition of the contribution that the Church in Malta has given and continues to give to the Universal Church. It will be a great pleasure for us to welcome and celebrate this honour bestowed on Fr Grech in the near future.”
Last December Fr Grech was awarded his country’s highest decoration, that of the National Order of Merit in the rank of Companion of Honor, the most prestigious rank as it permits of only three members at any one time. The award was presented in virtue of Father Grech’s many achievements, especially his contributions to society as theologian, by the President of Malta, Dr George Abela, in a ceremony held at the Presidential Palace commemorating the 37th anniversary of Malta as a republic.
The Augustinian Province of Malta, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Malta, has prepared a programme of celebrations on the occasion of the Episcopal Ordination of Monsignor Prospero Grech OSA. For this purpose a committee has been established to organise all aspects of this event.
Mons. Grech will be ordained bishop and given the personal title of Titular Bishop of San Leone in Basilicata (Italy). This episcopal seat was established in the 16th century (1571). Towards the end of the 14th Century and the start of the 15th century two Augustinians led this diocese (Nicola de Lorenzo O.E.S.A and Geminiano Giovanni de Sochefani O.E.S.A). Among the bishops who held this title one finds the Secretary to Blessed John Paul II, Mons. Stanislaw Dziwisz (from 7 February 1998 to 3 June 2005, when he was nominated Archbishop of Krakow).
The episcopal coat of arms of Mons Grech (left) is divided into two equal diagonal parts. On the right is a white Maltese cross on a red background, and on the left on a blue background is the coat of arms of the Order of St Augustine. The motto chosen by Mons Grech is taken form the first words in Psalm 31: “In te Domine speravi” (In you, Lord, I find refuge). This coat of arms will be used until his appointment to Cardinal on 18 February 2012.
Mons. Prospero Grech OSA will be in Malta from 6 to 10 February.
Episcopal Ordination Program
6 Feb: Mons. Prospero Grech arrives in Malta
11.30 a.m. News conference at the Archbishop’s Curia in Floriana
7.00 p.m. Prayer Vigil in preparation for the Episcopal Ordination of Mons. Prospero Grech O.S.A. in St Augustine’s Church in Valletta.
8 Feb: 6.00 p.m. Episcopal Ordination of Mons. Prospero Grech at St John’s C0-Cathedral in Valletta.
9 Feb: 7.15 p.m. Mons. Prospero Grech leads the mass on the vigil of the feast of the Shipwreck of St Paul, at St Paul’s Church in Valletta.
10 Feb: Mons. Prospero Grech leaves Malta for Rome.
18 Feb: Mons. Prospero Grech appointed Cardinal in Rome.
Fr Prospero Grech was born in Vittoriosa in 1925. He studied at the Lyceum and served as a gunner in the Home Guard of the University during the war. In 1943 he joined the Augustinian Order and seven years later he was ordained priest at San Giovanni Laterano Basilica in Rome.
Fr Grech read philosophy at St Mark’s Monastery in Rabat, Malta and theology at St Monica’s College in Rome. He was awarded the Doctorate in Theology from the Gregorian University of Rome (1953), the Licentiate in Holy Scriptures from the Biblical Pontifical Institute of Rome (1954) and the Diploma in Educational Psychology from Fribourg, Switzerland (1951). Fr Grech researched semitic languages at Oxford University (1957-58) and Cambridge University (1958-59).
In 1959 Fr Grech was appointed lecturer at the Augustinian College of Theology in Tabat. He served as secretary if the Vatican’s Vicariat and professor in the Augustinian Institute in Rome. In 1970, together with Rev Agostino Trapè, Fr Grech established the Augustinian Patristic Institute in Rome and served as its president between 1971 and 1979. He is a member of the Societas Studiorum Novi Testamenti (SNTS) and of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
For more than 30 years, Fr Grech was lecturer in Hermeneutics at the Biblical Pontifical Institute in Rome. (In religious studies and social philosophy, hermeneutics is the study of the theory and practice of interpretation.) He was also professor of Biblical Theology at the Lateran University in Rome, councillor of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and secretary of the Maltese Province of the Augustinians. Fr Grech was also nominated as Apostolic Visitor to the seminaries in India.
Fr Grech has written various articles and publications and given various lectures about the Bible and its interpretation, as well as on the studies of the first Christian writers. He also organised and taken part in various local and international congresses on these subjects. Fr Grech has taught at the Lincei Academy in Rome and the National Council of Research and collaborated with the Treccani Italian Encyclopaedia.
On 13 December 2011, Republic Day, Fr Grech was honoured by the President of Malta, Dr George Abela, with the award of the National Order of Merit in the rank of Companion of Honor.