Episcopal Ordination of Fr George Bugeja OFM held at Ta’ Pinu

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Episcopal Ordination of Fr George Bugeja OFM held at Ta' PinuOn Friday evening, in the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ta ‘Pinu, Gozo, the Gozo Bishop Mgr. Mario Grech led the Episcopal Consecration of Mgr. George Bugeja OFM, as Coadjutor Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Tripoli.Episcopal Ordination of Fr George Bugeja OFM held at Ta' PinuAt the end of Mass, Bishop Grech announced that the collection held last Sunday in the Gozo Diocese for Bishop George to make use of for charity in the Church in Tripoli had reached the wonderful sum of € 14,000.

THE VIOLENCE OF LOVE

Homily by Bishop Mario Grech during the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop George Bugeja

“In the Gospel which has just been read out Jesus extolls the love of God the Father – as the Father has loved Me! (John 15.9). Consequently I today feel that in the name of the Church, particularly the Church in Gozo, I too should extoll this love of God. Because dear Father George in your having been chosen to fulfill the office of Bishop, I see shining in all its glory, God’s love for the universal Church, for the Church in Tripoli (a missionary Church), for the Franciscan Order, but most specially for the Church in our island, an island small in size but big of heart.

Still once more God has regarded the humility of this His handmaid, the Church in Gozo, and has selected you to go out and bear fruit and your fruit shall endure (John 15.16). Your election to the episcopal state through which you will form part of the college of the apostles – amongst whom there are many martyrs – is God’s confirmation that in this diocese there is a great deal of good, and I feel proud to be part of it. Even if that which is less good seems to stand out, still it is a fact that the Church in Gozo is alive and vibrant: it is enough to look at the encouraging number of vocations, the saintly priests, zealous and one with their bishop, (once the late Bishop Cauchi remarked to me that many of our priests are of the stuff of which saints are made and I fully endorse this!), the love for the family which is still the cradle of good citizens, the generous love for the missions, the number of charitable institutions which exist only through the generosity of our people. I am convinced that in this Church the good example completely obliterates all obstacles.

God loves us and wants us to be happy and He goes on to point out the way which assures us of this joy. Jesus tells us: “Remain in my love……This is what I command you: that you love one another” (John 15:12.). Because love is strange to understand, Jesus shows us how we should love: “as the Father has loved Me so have I loved you… there is no greater love than this that one gives up his life for his friends” (John 15: 9, 13).

From the mount of the beatitudes Jesus points out to us different ways in which one can give one’s life for others: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on one cheek turn your face and let him hit the other one too; if someone takes your coat (even the coat of credibility and honesty) do not deny him your shirt. Pray for those who persecute you. Above all be merciful as merciful too is the Father. Do not judge and you will not be judged, do not condemn and you will not be condemned, forgive and you will be forgiven (see Luke 6, 27-38). This is the whole core of the Gospel.

This is what real happiness can be – the perfecta letitia professed by St Francis! In fact, one wintry night, St Francis knocked at the door of a convent of his own brothers but they did not open the door for him because they did not recognize him. A case of members of the community not acknowledging him as their ‘father’ and Francis feels happy about it. The same can happen to us bishops: we should not feel disheartened when individuals within the community do not acknowledge us as their bishop; instead we should accept this humiliation with joy!

If all this applies to all God’s disciples, it applies more particularly to you, Father George when the Church is entrusting you with that which in the words of St Augustine is amoris officium – your work as a bishop is the ministry of love. I cannot know what character qualities the Congregation in Rome was looking for when the Church chose us to be bishops, but I know what Jesus was looking for in Peter when he chose him to be the shepherd of His flock. Jesus was seeking one particular characteristic: “Simon son of John, do you love Me? (John 21:16). And this evening Jesus is putting to the same question to you, “George do you love Me?” This means that the Lord does not expect of us to be doctors of theology or extraordinary administrators, nor does He expect us to be professionals in pastoral work or that we lose ourselves in activism. He simply expects of us that we love Him – that we love Him in our neighbour for all that we do for the least amongst us we do it for Him (Mt 25,40).

In other words, Jesus is choosing you as an apostle and sending you to proclaim the gospel of love not so much with your preaching or your writings but rather with the simplicity and humility of your life. Along the road we walk we may come across persons who do not understand the burden we carry as bishops, to whom we cannot explain the reason behind our pastoral actions; yet this road has to be the catedra from where we spread our teaching, where by the way we live we bear witness of the love of God and our neighbor.

I exhort you to be an extraordinary minister of mercy particularly by administering God’s forgiveness. This is the greatest expression of love. Unfortunately our society is not enough merciful. Many expect with open arms to receive mercy from others but are too miserly when it is their turn to show mercy and close their fists tightly against their debtors. As I said in my latest Pastoral Letter nobody is an encumbrance to God! So even if one is looked upon as an encumbrance in lay society, one should not be looked upon as an encumbrance within the Church. Let them who have ears listen. Jesus so loved that He gave His life for the flock; what’s more He allowed His heart to be pierced so that He could better show the greatness and depth of His love for us. He loved till the very end even as He hung alone upon the Cross.

Dear George, if I can give you a word of good advice after I have been serving as bishop for nine years, I urge you to go on loving even when you find yourself alone upon the cross. No matter how many trusted persons you may have around you, yet there will be moments in your ministry when you shall find yourself alone. The solitude of office can be so cruel that you may even be tempted to think that God has left you all alone! But truly because you want to love as Christ Himself loved, you have to find the strength to go on loving even all sorts of human misery. There is the risk that you may be condemned and marked out as tainted simply because you got close to those who are tainted.

There will be matters which you will learn of through your ministry and which you cannot confide to anybody and which you have to carry in your heart even unto the grave. In those moments fix your eyes upon the Crucified Christ who knows full well the meaning of misunderstood love, and then you will understand the price you have to pay to be a bishop because like Him you are called to love. But with your eyes on Jesus crucified you will also find comfort because the love of Christ comes out victorious over death which is the consequence of evil.

In the world around us there are all sorts of violence – not least in Libya the country to which you are going. I pray to Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu under whose protection you are putting your life as bishop, to stand by you that the Holy Ghost may give you the strength to overcome all form of human violence by that which our brother bishop, the Blessed Oscar Romero, calls ‘the violence of love’. If with the violence of the sword man can go so far as to behead innocent people, with the violence of love we can build a new human civilization.

George, we are committing ourselves to accompany you in your walk and from this dear sanctuary we shall go on calling on Mary, Mother of Love, to intercede for you and for the Church entrusted to your pastoral care.”

Photos: Vince Fenech

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