Archbishop Emeritus Guzeppi Mercieca has died at the age of 87. The news was announced this morning at 7.20am by Archbishop Charles Scicluna in a tweet.
Mons. Guzeppi Mercieca was born in Rabat, Gozo on 11 November 1928. He was ordained as a priest on 8 March 1952. Mons Mercieca was consecrated as a Bishop on 29 September 1974 at the Mdina Cathedral. He was appointed Archbishop of Malta on 29 November 1976, after Archbishop Mikel Gonzi stepped down. Mons Mercieca was the third Gozitan in a period of 100 years to be made Archbishop of Malta.
When he was appointed Archbishop, the country had just emerged from the politico-religious issue of the 1960s, however the relationship between Church and State had not yet returned to normal. Two years after Archbishop Mercieca replaced Archbishop Gonzi, the Maltese Government introduced civil marriage and continued with its plan for Malta to become more secular, which included bringing to an end a certain amount of control which the Church had in the areas of education and health.
The issue between Church and State reached its peak with the battle over church schools in 1984. Negotiations on the longterm agreements over the schools and Church properties continued both under the government of Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici as well as during the Eddie Fenech Adami administration until a final agreement was signed in 1991.
Archbishop Mercieca will be remembered for his reform in the administration of the Curia in the 70s, the intoduction of a new payment method for priests, the better use of modern means of communication with the opening of the Church’s radio station (24 years ago) as well as the meeting of the Diocesan Synod, the first one to be held in Malta in 300 years.
Archbishop Gużeppi Mercieca handed over the reins of the leadership of the Catholic Church to Mons Pawlu Cremona in January 2007 until last year when Mons Charles J Scicluna took over the role of Archbishop of Malta.
A few months ago, Mons Mercieca left his residence at the Archbishop’s Palace in Mdina and went to live in Zejtun with a family which was taking area of him.