New ‘Augustinian’ cardinal announced

Cardinal-elect, Bishop Mario Grech (left), with a group of Augustinians on a hike.

After his midday address and the Angelus, on Sunday 25 October 2020, Pope Francis announced 13 new cardinals. The first to be named, Bishop Mario Grech (63), is an affiliate of the Augustinian Order and currently lives temporarily with the Prior General’s community in Rome. He was Bishop of Gozo (2005-19), Malta, and former President of the Maltese Bishops’ Conference (2013-16). He was recently appointed by Pope Francis as the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.

It is suggested that Bishop Mario was named first at the surprise announcement because of the Pope’s emphasis on synodality in the Church, at all levels, from parishes up to bishops. Synodality is a form of collective discernment under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a kind of holy dialogue, with a long history dating back to the early church but which got a bit lost along the way. Pope Francis is seeking to revive it, in line with other aspects of the Second Vatican Council that remained underdeveloped, and Bishop Mario has been given a key role. He is also on the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

During his stay with the Augustinians, he has been playing a full part in community life, joining the friars for common prayer, meals and recreation. He even joined some of them on mountaineering excursions during this year’s hot summer. In the photo (above) he was with a group on Monte Terminillo in early September. His affability and obvious closeness to the Augustinians will be missed when, inevitably, he moves on. He will be raised to the rank of cardinal on 28 November 2020.