Saturday evening, 17 April 2010, at the
Malta International Airport in Luqa, the Holy Father spoke of himself as
a pilgrim, coming to celebrate the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's
shipwreck off the island of Malta.
Dear Brother Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Jien kuntent ħafna li ninsab fostkom! [I am delighted to be here with
It gives me great joy to be here in Malta with you today. I come among
you as a pilgrim to worship the Lord and to praise him for the wonders
he has worked here. I come also as the Successor of Saint Peter to
confirm you in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) and to join you in prayer to the
one living and true God, in the company of all the Saints, including the
great Apostle of Malta, Saint Paul. Though my visit to your country is
short, I pray that it will bear much fruit.
I am grateful, Mr President, for the kind words with which you have
greeted me in your own name and on behalf of the Maltese people. I thank
you for your invitation and for the hard work that you and the
Government have done in order to prepare for my visit. I thank the Prime
Minister, the civil and military authorities, the members of the
Diplomatic Corps and everyone present, for honouring this occasion by
your presence and for your cordial welcome.
I greet in a special way Archbishop Paul Cremona, Bishop Mario Grech and
Auxiliary Bishop Annetto Depasquale, as well as the other Bishops
present. In greeting you, I wish to express my affection for the
priests, deacons, men and women Religious and all the lay faithful
entrusted to your pastoral care.
The occasion of my visit to these islands is the nineteen hundred and
fiftieth anniversary of Saint Paulís shipwreck off the island of Malta.
Saint Luke describes this event in the Acts of the Apostles, and it is
from his account that you have chosen the theme of this visit: "Jeħtieg
iżda li naslu fi gżira" ["But we are to be stranded on some island"]
(Acts 27:26). Some might consider Saint Paulís arrival in Malta by means
of a humanly unforeseen event to be a mere accident of history. The eyes
of faith, however, enable us to recognize here the workings of divine
Malta, in fact, has been at the crossroads of many of the great events
and cultural exchanges in European and Mediterranean history, right up
to our own times. These islands have played a key role in the political,
religious and cultural development of Europe, the Near East, and North
Africa. To these shores, then, in the mysterious designs of God, the
Gospel was brought by Saint Paul and the early followers of Christ.
Their missionary work has borne much fruit over the centuries,
contributing in innumerable ways to shaping Maltaís rich and noble
On account of their geographical position, these islands have been of
great strategic importance on more than one occasion, even in recent
times: indeed, the George Cross upon your national flag proudly
testifies to your peopleís great courage during the dark days of the
last world war. Likewise, the fortifications that feature so prominently
in the islandís architecture speak of earlier struggles, when Malta
contributed so much to the defence of Christianity by land and by sea.
You continue to play a valuable role in the ongoing debates on European
identity, culture and policy. At the same time, I am pleased to note
your Governmentís commitment to humanitarian projects further afield,
especially in Africa. It is greatly to be hoped that this will serve to
promote the welfare of those less fortunate than yourselves, as an
expression of genuine Christian charity.
Indeed, Malta has much to contribute to questions as diverse as
tolerance, reciprocity, immigration, and other issues crucial to the
future of this continent. Your Nation should continue to stand up for
the indissolubility of marriage as a natural institution as well as a
sacramental one, and for the true nature of the family, just as it does
for the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death and
for the proper respect owed to religious freedom in ways that bring
authentic integral development to individuals and society.
Malta also has close links to the near East, not only in cultural and
religious terms, but even linguistically. Allow me to encourage you to
put this ensemble of skills and strengths to ever greater use so as to
serve as a bridge of understanding between the peoples, cultures and
religions which surround the Mediterranean. Much has still to be done to
build relationships of genuine trust and fruitful dialogue, and Malta is
well placed to hold out the hand of friendship to her neighbours to
north and south, to east and west.
The Maltese people, enlightened for almost two millennia by the
teachings of the Gospel and continually fortified by their Christian
roots, are rightly proud of the indispensable role that the Catholic
faith has played in their nationís development. The beauty of our faith
is expressed in various and complementary ways here, not least in the
lives of holiness which have led Maltese to give of themselves for the
good of others. Among these we must include Dun Ġorɍ Preca, whom I was
pleased to canonize just three years ago (3 June, 2007). I invite all of
you to invoke his intercession for the spiritual fruitfulness of this,
my first pastoral visit among you.
I look forward to praying with you during my time in Malta and I wish,
as a father and as a brother, to assure you of my affection for you and
my eagerness to share this time with you in faith and friendship. With
these thoughts, I entrust all of you to the protection of Our Lady of
Taí Pinu and your father in the faith, the great Apostle Paul.
Il-Mulej ibierek lill-poplu kollu taí Malta u taí Għawdex! [God bless
all the people of Malta and Gozo!].