Mon 20th Oct 2014 | Last updated: Mon 20th Oct 2014 at 22:34pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

Father Prospero, possibly the most intelligent man alive, is to become Malta’s second ever cardinal

Fr Prosper Grech, of the Augustinian Order, was for many years a distinguished professor in Rome

By on Monday, 9 January 2012

The list of new cardinals, published last week, has garnered a fair amount of comment about who is in, and who should have been in, but wasn’t. My eye was caught by two names, both of men over 80, and who therefore will never vote in a conclave, but who have been raised to the purple honoris causa.

The first is Fr Karl Becker, SJ, who taught for many years at the Gregorian University in Rome. I have never exchanged a word with him, but I sat through his course on Grace. One thing Fr Becker said made a great impression on me, namely that the glory of God consists in his moral splendour. (In fact I find that I have quoted Fr Becker before now.)

There is an appreciation of Fr Becker’s theology by some of his Jesuit colleagues here.

The second name that caught my eye is that of Fr Prosper Grech, of the Augustinian Order, also for many years a distinguished professor in Rome, who taught Biblical hermeneutics at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

When I was a small child, living in Malta, we had a great family friend in Nigel Dennis.

Nigey, as he was always known, has been dead for almost a quarter of a century, but the memory of his kindness and goodness remain vivid. He was one of two family friends who had written books, and was therefore surrounded by an aura – for in those days authors, as they were called, were held in high regard. At that time he was the chief book reviewer for the Sunday Telegraph; when I wrote my very first attempt at fiction, he was kind enough to look at it and give an encouraging judgment.

Nigel was the author of several acclaimed novels, one of which, Cards of Identity, was a huge success on publication and has been re-released in the last decade.

But to get back to the new cardinals. Some 20 years ago, when I was going to Rome to study for the priesthood, Nigel’s widow said to me: “You must go and see a great friend of ours. He was the first Maltese we ever met. He is, Nigey used to say, the most intelligent man alive.” So I did. The person in question was of course Father Prospero (as he is usually called).

Nigel Dennis, a scholar and a gentleman, had great judgement, it seems to me. I know other people who know Father Prospero, and they too speak warmly about his human qualities. And now the Holy Father has added his accolade.

Father Prospero will be only the second Maltese cardinal in history. The first, for those who are interested, was a Cardinal Testaferrata, a member of the prominent noble family of that name, who had a career in the papal diplomatic service in the early 19th century. When you consider how much Malta has given to the Church, it is amazing that until now it has only produced one cardinal. Now, with the elevation of Father Prospero, a historical wrong is on the way to being righted.

  • Mack Hall

    Prospero’s Isle indeed!

  • Adiutricem

    He should be a Cardinal just for having such a great name.

  • Anonymous

    It’s impossible not to think of “The Tempest”

    About wrongs: Malta has now had two cardinals – but how many Jewish cardinals have there been ? Not many.

  • Emmettleonard

    The late Jean Marie Lustiger cardinal archbishop of Paris is the only one I can think  of
    and he was great!!!

  • Anonymous

    Q What is the difference between the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris and the Chief Rabbi of France?

    A The Chief Rabbi can’t speak Yiddish!

    It was always said as a joke, but it was also true. 

  • David Armitage

    I’ve nothing against old age pensioners.  I’m one myself. But can you imagine Jesus walking up to this lot and telling them to follow him and become fishers of men? They typify what is wrong with the church, not so much built on the rock as on the rocks.

  • Hidden One

    You don’t make youngsters Cardinals. Youngsters you put in seminary.

  • theroadmaster

    Malta has been Catholic and Christian since St Paul got shipwrecked upon it’s shores in 60 A.D.  A second Cardinal appointed from those august Islands is very long overdue and it pays homage to the great service which has been rendered to the Church by both religious and lay people down through the very long history of Maltese Christianity.

  • David Armitage

    And you close seminaries down, without of course consulting the faithful who built them. Look at what happened to Ushaw. The church is governed by gerontocrats who make up the rules as they go along, who have one aim in life: to hang on to power.

  • Mifsudl

    Thank you, Fr Alexander for your comments about the elevation of Fr Prospero Grech,OSA to the College of Cardinals. His credentials are well known,but probably only few know exactly the contribution that Malta, my country has given and still gives to the Catholic Church, at the Vatican, in the Missions and in many dioceses in the world.
    Thank you for yor favourable comments and especially that you have guessed our expectations, which His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has now fulfilled with this appointment.

    Mgr Lawrence Mifsud

  • mamerto alfeche

    He is a very simple person and very courteous to everyone. Great Prospero. indeed.