Archbishop Charles Scicluna came out fighting for the Church’s right to speak out in an interview on public television yesterday.

He insisted it was his duty to be another voice in society and failing to speak was a disservice to the people.

“I will not shut up,” he said when answering questions on TVM discussion programme Times Talk. He was being quizzed about comments he passed in public, deemed to be political by some.

The latest was an appeal he made to architecture graduates to safeguard the built heritage and avoid “lighting a la Las Vegas”. The comment was interpreted as a reaction to the controversial lighting system installed on the façade of Auberge de Castille, the Prime Minister’s office.

It also earned him rebuke from former Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who described the Archbishop as the Nationalist Party’s new deputy leader.

I will not keep my mouth shut as a result of these intimidations

Mgr Scicluna said it was “puerile” to believe that whoever criticised the government was doing the Opposition a favour.

“I will not keep my mouth shut as a result of these intimidations… if our heritage is being vandalised because of irresponsibility I would be an accomplice if I kept my mouth shut. I will not be an accomplice with vandal acts against our moral, historic or architectural heritage.”

He also used the TVM platform to criticise the national station for sometimes failing to report him whenever his words were “uncomfortable” to the powers that be.

And then he gave a stark description of the state of the broadcasting media in general: “The problem is that we have partisan and political monopolies in broadcasting and many times what is uncomfortable to power disappears from the airwaves. This is not the environment of a true democracy.”

“I will not be confined to the sacristy,” he said in response to a comment posted online that the Church should only be concerned about religion and stay out of politics.

Mgr Scicluna said those who criticised his public utterances by referring to the 1960s political-religious battle were the ones who wanted to drag the country back in time.

He then borrowed a phrase from former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff, described as “a famous architect”, insisting that he wanted to “look ahead in peace”.

Mgr Scicluna said his ‘political’ comments were motivated by the common good, insisting it was important to have a moral motivation for speaking out.

“When I say we must safeguard heritage, I do so from a moral standpoint to safeguard what was entrusted to us by our predecessors for our future generations. If I speak against tax evasion, it is because it is morally wrong to steal and deny the State the possibility to help those in need.”

Asked about the illegal Armier boathouses, Mgr Scicluna said he would not personally celebrate Mass there but could not stop other priests from offering the service. He said his presence would give the illegal boathouse village a stamp of legitimacy but a priest would only be carrying out his pastoral duties.

kurt.sansone@timesofmalta.com

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