Dear brothers and sisters, Since my ordination as Bishop of the Diocese of Gibraltar, I have been doing my best to listen to what people have to say, both lay persons and priests. During the seven months that I have been here, I have been reflecting on how to realise in a better way the mission that the Church is meant to fulfil in the Diocese, which is mainly that of teaching the word of God and being of spiritual service through the sacraments to the faithful.
In order to achieve this, I feel that certain changes have to be introduced which will be happening hopefully over a period of time. Such changes are necessary in my estimation for the good of the community and of the priests themselves. I also realise that I need the presence of more priests in the Diocese.
In accordance with the law of the Church, when a priest is given a particular office or ministry this is given for an indefinite period of time, though obviously, not for life. It is the bishop who decides when a priest may be called upon, due to the needs of the diocese, to move from one ministry to another. This is the normal practice in most dioceses all over the world. It is not easy at times to accept change, since this means adapting to a new situation, but change is beneficial both to the individual concerned and to the community. Changes bring about new challenges and opportunities which ultimately promote true growth.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the priests in the Diocese for their contribution to the Diocese in their dedication to their ministry. I pray that we all constantly renew our commitment to the Lord to work together for the good of His people in the Church in Gibraltar. At this moment I would like to present these changes, which are meant to invigorate our pastoral activity in response to new situations and needs.
Mgr. Paul Bear has been the parish priest and administrator of the Cathedral parish for the last eighteen years. He is now being assigned as the Parish Priest at St Joseph’s parish.
Fr. Michael Bonifacio has been the Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Parish for the last six years. I am conscious of the ever-growing need for proper care for those in hospital and in the various care homes which exist or have recently been opened. Fr. Michael will be assigned to the ministry of administering to the sick and the elderly.
Fr. Mario Tong, a priest who has already been in Gibraltar to help out in this diocese at the time of his ordination to the priesthood and also lately, has providentially agreed, with the Archbishop of Malta’s consent, to return to Gibraltar and help out here again. He is being assigned to the Cathedral Parish both as a Parish Priest and as the Cathedral Administrator.
Apart from these changes, I am glad to announce that Mgr. John Pardo, who has been away from Gibraltar for the last fourteen years working in the English College in Valladolid, first as Vice-rector and the last six as Rector, and Fr. Daniel Hernandez, who has been for the last seventeen years working as a chaplain in the British army, are both intending to return back to the Rock. After a period of transition adjustment they will be taking up ministries assigned to them at a later stage. It is my intention to appoint Mgr. John Pardo as my Vicar General once he is back in Gibraltar and Fr. Daniel Hernandez will be assigned to St Bernard’s Church upon his return.
It is my hope that these changes will be for the good of the Church in Gibraltar and that all will cooperate with the priests in settling down in their new ministries.