The Malta Independent online poll: Majority want Archbishop to help strengthen family values
The ordination of Archbishop Paul Cremona was greeted with muchenthusiasm and what seems to be genuine affection from the public. Yetnow the real work starts, with 54.5 per cent of respondents to anonline poll on The Malta Independent website calling on the Church towork to strenghten family values.
Mgr Cremona seems to havetaken the flock to his heart, and by and large the feeling seems to bemutual. The ever-beaming smile has endeared him to the public and thishas gone hand in hand with the message he started to spread from themoment of his ordination.
Analysing his words, and also hisactions, it is clear that the Archbishop knows that a differentapproach has to be taken on by the Catholic Church to be more relevantto the people.
He has already started to â€œmarketâ€ both himselfand the Church to the faithful. The people have realised this and theyseem to have given him a vote of confidence â€“ quietly acknowledgingthat religion and the Church are still relevant in their lives. On hispart, the Archbishop has taken on an unusual approach â€“ similar, onecould say, to the style of Pope John Paul II, whilst at the same timeretaining the qualities that make him distinctly â€œPawlu.â€
He hasshown that he is prepared to change â€“ but that his message will not beany different to what has already been preached by others, includingformer Archbishop Joseph Mercieca and Jesus himself â€“ that of love,compassion and faith.
In this weekâ€™s online poll, TMID put thequestion: â€œWhat should the Archbishopâ€™s priorities be?â€ Respondentswere given the alternatives of: strengthening family values, increasingSunday Mass attendance, tackling sexual abuse by the clergy, bioethicalissues or increasing the number of vocations.
Although the poll is not a scientific survey, it gives a clear indication of what the people would like to see from Mgr Cremona.
Theabsolute majority of respondents (54.5 per cent) want him to help instrengthening family values. This theme has long been in theundercurrents of society â€“ particularly opinion writers, who have longbeen trumpeting the dangers of the collapse of what is perhaps Maltaâ€™smost treasured of things â€“ the family.
However, whilst thisholds is true, Mgr Cremona has his work cut out for him with theever-increasing demand for the introduction of divorce and the everinsistent discussion on abortion. Quite how the Archbishop is going tohelp strengthen family values is a matter of debate â€“ but we are surethat it is high, if not at the very top, of his agenda.
Theissue which came next on the list was that of the need to tackle theproblem of sexual abuse by members of the clergy (29.8 per cent).Again, this is a very touchy subject and perhaps what people aredemanding is harsher treatment of perpetrators of abuse and moretransparency from the Church. This could also stimulate local debate onthe issue of celibacy by men and women of the cloth.
These twoissues were highlighted by respondents as being on top of the agenda,with the other three points seemingly being relegated as matters oflittle importance. Next on the list was the need to increase vocations(7.58 per cent). While this does not seem to be important to thepublic, one can assume that this will be high on the list of prioritiesof the Church, especially in view of the falling numbers of men andwomen who are willing to consecrate their life to God.
The needto increase Mass attendance was another relatively poor showing withonly 5.56 per cent of respondents saying that it should be a priority.This is very much in tune with the local trend of ever-decreasingattendance, and while the Archbishop would surely love to see churchespacked to the rafters, his priority seems to be the spreading of themessage that, like Jesus, we should first and foremost try to live goodChristian lives.
Last on the list â€“ very much contrary tointernational trends â€“ is the issue of bioethics. We have had verylittle debate about it in this country and it has largely beenrelegated to adjournment speeches in parliament and this is reflectedby the very poor 2.56 per cent of respondents who said it should be apriority.
What is clear is that the people have sent a loudmessage to the Archbishop â€“ they want the Church to be more relevant intheir lives and they want the Church to try and help them to be goodChristians.
The Church and the people have walked, in pastyears, down diverging paths. But the ordination of Mgr Cremona is abeacon of hope to many. While one hopes he will listen to the people,we must realise that as with everything, this is a two way street.
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