Members of the Executive of the Maltese Community Council of Victoria and representatives from its affiliated associations were among a large contingent from the Maltese community who bid farewell to their spiritual leader, the Bishop of Sandhurst Joseph Grech, at his funeral in Bendigo on Thursday, 6 January 2011.
In a statement issued a week earlier, the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson, referred to Bishop Grech as an “exceptional pastor, who made a tremendous contribution to the church in Australia because of his deep faith and spirituality, which has been shown especially in the zeal with which he dealt with issues of migrants and refugees and his outreach to young people.”
Following a two-hour Requiem Mass that was attended by over 4,000 people from all walks of life, the remains of Bishop Grech were laid to rest in the crypt below the majestic Sacred Heart Cathedral. Among those present in the jam-packed cathedral were Bishop Grech’s family, including his brother Carmel Grech and sister Rosette Saliba from Malta, members of the Sandhurst Diocese community and friends.
Archbishop of Sydney George Cardinal Pell led proceedings as principal celebrant at the Solemn Pontifical Requiem Mass, which was concelebrated with 32 bishops, including Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, and 176 priests from across Australia. Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, gave the homily.
The High Commissioner of Malta H.E. Francis Tabone spoke about Bishop Grech as “a jovial person full of life, a person with a sound vocation”. He said that “although we are saddened by his loss, we are comforted by the legacy of his work among his community and the refugees.” Mr Tabone said that the Maltese are very proud of the significant contribution that Bishop Grech, coming from such a small country, made to the Australian continent. On behalf of the people of Malta and the Maltese community in Australia, Mr Tabone saluted Bishop Grech as “one of Malta’s worthy sons.”
The Most Reverend Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio, read out a message from Pope Benedict XVI who was saddened to hear of the popular Bishop’s death.