Mgr Giovanni Cefai, of Żebbuġ, Gozo, has become the first priest from within the Missionary Society of St Paul to be ordained a bishop.
His appointment was announced in April and he will be installed in the prelature of Huancane in the Andes of Peru, later this week.
The consecration of Bishop Cefai took place on Saturday at the Cathedral of Arequipa, attended by the MSSP Superior General Fr Mark Grima, another 15 bishops and many priests, as well as some of Fr Giovanni’s siblings from Canada, Malta and Australia.
The prelature spans a vast area touching the border of Bolivia on Lake Titicaca at around 4,000 metres above sea level. It boasts the highest parish in the world at over 5,400 metres. Bishop Cefai and another MSSP priest will have their seat at the parish of Huancane.
As the MSSP has done so often in Arequipa over the past 50 years, the ministry often involves a lot of social assistance in remote areas where basic structures like schools, hospitals and other services do not exist.
The level of poverty and hardship in these rural areas is higher than any other in the Andean regions, also because of the harsh atmospheric conditions.
A hidden, poor and fragile start on the steps of the founder
Bishop Cefai and Fr Grima both said that for the MSSP, each small beginning was like a new Bethlehem: “A hidden, poor and fragile start, on the steps of the founder, Joseph De Piro.”
Gozo Bishop Mario Grech sent a letter to Bishop Cefai, highlighting the fact that the ordination took place on the feast of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu.
On Sunday, a lunch was held at a retreat house of the Archdiocese of Arequipa. Guests from Huancane swarmed around the newly consecrated bishop, dressing him with hat, shawls and ponchos as signs of gratitude and honour (pictured above).
The mitre and shepherd’s staff gave way to warm coloured clothes as the new bishop donned local colours of the people he will live with and serve.
More of this is expected when Bishop Cefai is installed in the prelature and the celebrations take on a more local flavour.