.- The bishops, priests, and religious of Sri Lanka celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving Dec. 2 to show appreciation for their former apostolic nuncio, who has been appointed nuncio to Ivory Coast.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo and president of the Sri Lankan bishops' conference, thanked Archbishop Joseph Spiteri for his valuable contributions to the Catholics of Sri Lanka, where he had been apostolic nuncio since February 2009.
Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Spiteri as nuncio to Ivory Coast Oct. 1.
While posted to Sri Lanka, Archbishop Spiteri was instrumental in influencing the peace building process following a nearly 30-year civil war, with his continual pastoral visits to areas of re-settlement and reconciliation.
The Mass of thanksgiving was said at All Saints' parish in Borella, a suburb of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital.
Archbishop Spiteri in his turn thanked Sri Lankan Catholics for the help they had shown him, and for their cooperation and assistance with the apostolic mission entrusted him by the Holy See.
He said he was impressed with the pastoral activities throughout Sri Lanka, and the contribution of the Church to the “development and progress” of the country where Catholics make up about six percent of the population.
Archbishop Spiteri was born in the Maltese town of Sliema in 1959, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Malta in 1984.
He holds a degree in canon law, and after being recruited for the Holy See's diplomatic corps, he served in the nunciatures to Panama, Iraq, Mexico, Portugal, Greece, and Venezuela.
He was appointed apostolic nuncio to Sri Lanka while working in the Secretariat of State's office, and was consecrated a bishop in May 2009.
Archbishop Spiteri's role as nuncio to Ivory Coast fills the void created by the death of Archbishop Ambrose Madtha, who was killed in a car accident in Ivory Coast's commercial capital Abidjan last December.