“If a person is banging on our shores, we cannot ignore it”, the Archbishop of Malta has said.

Driving the news

Charles Scicluna was speaking to Newsbook January 27 just days after visiting asylum seekers who reside at the Peace Lab in Ħal Far, whom he told “we need to contribute to your well-being”.

“You should feel part of our family… I am here to give hope and tell you: you are welcome. God bless you”, the archbishop told the 52 asylum seekers, from countries as diverse as Mali, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran.

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“I cannot ignore these migrants’ presence”, Scicluna told Newsbook Monday referring to the asylum seekers already in the country but also the constant wave of new arrivals on Mediterranean waters.

“We need to understand that we’re all human. We need to learn to work together and whoever employs these people should respect their safety. If a person is banging on our shores, we cannot ignore it”.

Why it matters

Scicluna also referred in his interview with Newsbook to a controversial carnival float of which he was a protagonist, but which Culture minister José Herrera has vetoed.

That’s because, by featuring Scicluna’s likeness, horned demons, an LGBT rainbow and the name “St. Joseph’s Home” – where clerical sex abuse of children took place in the 1980s – the float linked Scicluna to sex crimes and “promoted hate” against the Church, in Herrera’s opinion.

“I didn’t criticise the people who made the float”, Scicluna said, though he did admit he found it “hateful”.

“I have no objection to seeing that whoever occupies a public role is subjected to satire. But to associate me with paedophilia is not satire, it’s defamation. You have to have a particular hatred to portray the archbishop in that manner”.

“I’m not trying to blow my own horn but you’re stripping the archbishop of dignity with that gesture. You’re not trying to make someone laugh, you’re contributing to defamation”, Scicluna added.

In that context, the prelate made reference to the fact that he is the Pope’s go-to man on child abuse and, as Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the Vatican’s chief abuse investigators.

For the record

One other point Scicluna spoke to in the Newsbook interview was the mandate of new Prime Minister Robert Abela, elected by the ruling Labour party to replace former PM Joseph Muscat, forced out over his negligence in the investigation of the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Scicluna had met Abela January 16 when the new PM made a courtesy call to the archbishop’s residence, and where Scicluna had pledged Abela his “total support” and urged him to work for the “common good”.

Abela is “an intelligent [man], full of energy, someone who has the courage to take certain decisions”, Scicluna told Newsbook of the new premier, praising him also for having been a legal consultant for Church aid group Caritas.

Next on Novena:

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.