St George’s parish, through its geographical position at the heart of the island and through its historical significance, has had connections with the bishops of Gozo from the very beginning. One must say that the first Bishop of Gozo, through his office as Archpriest of the Cathedral Church, was also Parish priest of Victoria and therefore parrocco of St George’s. Incidentally, he was also a great promoter of the diocese like one of his predecessors, Don Saverio Cassar, who was also Archpriest of the Matrice and Parish priest of Rabat.
With the erection of the new College of Canons at St George’s in 1975, the bond between St George’s and the bishops of Gozo was strengthened, given that the highest office within the new Collegiate – which is that of dean – has to be occupied by the diocesan bishop, as the statute of the Collegiate itself states.
Bishop Mario Grech, who was the eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Gozo, was also the second Dean of St George’s Collegiate. The instalment of outgoing Bishop Mario Grech as Dean of the Collegiate took place on Sunday 5 February 2006 during the 11.00am Mass. This historical event was recorded in the parish magazine Il-Belt Victoria (No 148) for the months of January-February 2006. On that occasion, two canons of the Lateran Cathedral in Rome, Mgr Vincenzo Zinno and Mgr Alfredo Bona, visited the island and honoured us with their presence. One should not forget that St George’s Collegiate Basilica is spiritually affiliated to the Papal Archbasilica which serves as the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Rome and is therefore the mater et caput of the entire Catholic Church.
Bishop Mario has presided over dozens of concelebrations at St George’s during his fifteen-year episcopate. Besides, Bishop Mario presided over the Pontifical Mass for St George’s Day every third Sunday of July and for a couple of years, he also led the procession on the same day. His Excellency has also administered the sacrament of Confirmation at St George’s on an annual basis during his episcopate. He made it known on several occasions that it was a great pleasure for him every time he presided over a liturgy at St George’s Basilica.
It was Bishop Grech who in September 2007 nominated Mgr Pawlu Cardona as Archpriest of St George’s. Then, on 4 November 2016, the Gozo Curia announced that Fr Joseph Curmi had been appointed by Bishop Grech as the new Archpriest for St George’s Parish of Victoria.
On 2 October 2019, Pope Francis appointed him General Pro-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. On Thursday 26 August 2020, Bishop Grech presided on a Thanksgiving Mass which was celebrated in the Xewkija Rotunda. From these columns, we would like to congratulate Bishop Grech as he proceeds to the Eternal City to serve the universal Church in the Vatican and we hope that we will be able to welcome him again at St George’s in the future!