Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Why Malta?"

Breaking with the usual custom for his overseas trips, today's papal flight to heavily-Catholic Malta for B16's weekend visit did not feature the usual in-air press conference... which is traditionally the lone reason news organizations jockey (and shell out) for the overpriced seats in the press cabin of the Volo Papale.

Instead, having "reflected" on the standard written questions submitted by the VAMP pool of reporters trailing him, the Pope offered the following statement... parsing encouraged:
Dear friends, good evening! Let us hope we have a good journey, without this dark cloud that is hanging over part of Europe.

So why this trip to Malta? The reasons are manifold.

The first is St. Paul. The Pauline Year of the universal Church is over, but Malta is celebrating 1950 years since the shipwreck and this is my opportunity to once again bring to light the great figure of the Apostle to the Gentiles, with his important message even [for] today. I think we can summarize the essence of his journey with the words with which he himself summarised it at the end of the letter to the Galatians: Faith working through love.

These are the important things today: faith, the relationship with God, which then turns into love. But I also think that the reason for the shipwreck speaks for us. Malta’s fortune to have faith was born from the wreck; so we can think the same, that life’s shipwrecks can be part of God’s plan for us and they may also be useful for new beginnings in our lives.

The second reason: I am glad to live in the midst of lively church, which the Church in Malta is. Even today it is fruitful in vocations, full of faith in the midst of our time, responding to the challenges of our time. I know that Malta loves Christ and loves his Church which is his body and knows that, even if this body is wounded by our sins, God loves this church and its gospel is the true force that purifies and heals.

Third point: Malta is the point where the currents of refugees from Africa arrive and knock at Europe’s door. This is a great problem of our time, and, of course, can not be resolved by the island of Malta. We must all respond to this challenge, work so that everyone can, live a dignified life in their homeland and on the other hand do everything possible so that these refugees find here, where they arrive, that they find a decent living space. A response to a great challenge of our time: Malta reminds us of these problems and also reminds us that their faith is the force that gives charity, and thus also the imagination to respond well to these challenges. Thank you.
For more, this PopeTrip's first two discourses have dropped: the pontiff's Opening Address at Luqa Airport in the capital, Valletta, and an evening talk at the Grotto (top left) where the shipwrecked Paul holed up for some three months.

Meanwhile, on a side-note, in the run-up to the brief visit -- the 14th foreign trek of Benedict's five-year reign -- the island's lead prelate, the Dominican Archbishop Paul Cremona, aimed to spread the word among the young in an unusual way, having gone "barhopping" to plug the PopeTrip last Saturday night.

Established as Malta's state religion, some 98 percent of the island's 420,000 residents identify as Catholic.

PHOTO: Reuters