Bishop Annetto Depasquale, described as a humble man who strived to be a perfectionist, passed away yesterday afternoon in his Qormi house at the age of 73. “He walked with God and was a man who truly lived his faith... I knew him as always being a perfectionist, both spiritually and professionally. He was truly exemplary,” said one of his best friends and colleague Mgr Lawrence Gatt.

The Church in Malta has lost a lot but I lost a friend

Mgr Gatt, who grew up, studied and was ordained with Mgr Depasquale, also “had the honour” of giving his dear friend his last rites yesterday afternoon.

He recounted how he went to pick up Mgr Depasquale from his Qormi home at 3.30 p.m. as the two had planned to attend a pastoral visit by the Archbishop in Mdina.

But when he arrived there he found that his friend had collapsed and died at home just a few minutes earlier.

Earlier on in the day the two were together at the Curia – where Mgr Depasquale served as Vicar General and Mgr Gatt as Chancellor – until about 1 p.m. They agreed to continue discussing a topic later on and that Mgr Gatt would pick him up at 3.30 p.m.

Mgr Gatt said the two of them were planning to attend the 50th anniversary reunion of their ordination planned for next April.

Once viewed as a possible successor to former Archbishop Joseph Mercieca, Mgr Depasquale suffered serious ill health which kept him away from his duties for several months. Although he eventually returned to duty, he never fully recovered.

In January 2007, Mgr Mercieca’s successor, Archbishop Paul Cremona, nominated him Vicar General.

When contacted yesterday Mgr Cremona said he mostly worked with Mgr Depasquale in the past five years since he became Archbishop.

“He had a great faithfulness towards the Church and towards me,” he said. “He strived to be a perfectionist, had great knowledge of Canon law and was very humble even in the way he faced his ailment with great honour and humility.” Mgr Cremona recalled a recent visit to Lourdes when Mgr Depasquale enjoyed the experience to the full. Gozo Bishop Mario Grech said he got to know Mgr Depasquale when he was a student of Canon Law and consulted him as an expert in the subject.

When he became Gozo bishop, six years ago, he worked closely with Mgr Depasquale and looked up to him “like a mentor”.

“He was full of God’s presence and had an impressive spirituality... through him I learnt to live the mystery of suffering since, over the past years he was sick but always retained his trust in God,” he said.

“He was active, intelligent and very human... the news of his death shook me. The Church in Malta lost a lot, but I lost a friend,” Mgr Grech said.

Mgr Depasquale was born in Qormi on June 28, 1938, and was one of nine brothers and sisters.

He was ordained priest on June 7, 1962, and carried out pastoral duties at the Church Commission for Children’s Homes, the Pastoral Research Services, besides assisting in the parish of St George in Qormi and the English speaking community in Malta.

He had a great faithfulness towards the Church... He was very humble even in the way he faced his ailment with great humility

He also lectured in Canon Law at the University of Malta. He was appointed Curia Chancellor in August 1977 and Pastoral Secretary in April 1986.

On November 16, 1998, the Pope nominated him Titular Bishop of Aradi and Auxiliary Bishop of Malta. Mgr Depasquale was ordained Bishop on January 2, 1999, and nominated Vicar General in January 2007.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party sent their condolences to Mgr Depasquale’s family.

The funeral cortege will leave Mgr Depasquale’s Qormi residence today at 9 a.m. and head towards the Qormi parish of St George where he will be lying in state until 10 p.m. A prayer vigil will be held at 6 p.m.

Tomorrow, the funeral cortege will leave the parish church at 8.15 a.m. and head to St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta where he will again lay in state until 1 p.m.

At 2 p.m. Mgr Cremona will celebrate the funeral Mass after which the funeral cortege will leave to the Addolorata Cemetery for burial in the family grave.

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