Malta. On 2 and 3 April 2022, Pope Francis made his 36th apostolic journey to the island of Malta, in the footsteps of St. Paul, welcomed in 60 AD “with rare humanity” by the inhabitants, following the shipwreck while on his way to Rome.
At the center of the routes that connect Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Malta is a meeting place between heterogeneous cultures, defined by the Pope as “the heart of the Mediterranean. But not only for the position. The intertwining of historical events and the meeting of populations have made these islands a center of vitality and culture, spirituality and beauty for millennia, a crossroads that has been able to welcome and harmonize influences from many parts.”
The long-awaited visit of the Holy Father drew the entire population as a sign of comfort and hope to renew the spirit of welcome, generosity, and that ‘rare humanity’ shown to those who land on these islands.
The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, present in the archipelago of Malta with two communities of the Southern Province of Our Lady of Good Counsel (IMR), in Sliema and Gozo, participated in various moments of the visit. The Gozo Community was present at the National Shrine of Ta ‘Pinu, on 2 April, while the FMA of Sliema, along with some young people, went to welcome him after his arrival and together with the young people and volunteers of the oratory-youth center experienced some of the other moments momenti of the program.
Here is the testimony of some young people:
“Pope Francis came to Malta to dialogue with all men and women of good will, but also to speak as a Pastor to Christians. In the first Address to the Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps in the ‘Grand Council Chamber’ of the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, he made a careful political analysis and experienced a profoundly human encounter with the migrants in Hal-Far. Through both experiences, he offered a vision of social and international justice through political art and humanistic culture, underlining the death of civilization whenever one feels threatened and is indifferent towards the other.
At the Shrine of Ta ‘Pinu and in the Grotto of St. Paul, he instead spoke as a missionary disciple of Christ, as shepherd of the flock, like Peter, the rock on which the Church rests. In his homily at Floriana, during the Holy Mass,
Pope Francis recalled that in the end, it is not our noble but too human, efforts towards justice that save, but only looking at the mercy of a God who truly forgives.
The Pope exalted the ‘luminosity of the Maltese islands’, that Light we received through the Apostle, whose proclamation transformed our ‘rare gentleness’ into the strength of being not only a civilization that embraces all cultures, but a Church that reconciles all humanity. In his humanity, in his intensity of presence, we see in Pope Francis a man who acts inspired by the Spirit. This is what strikes us every time we see him ‘touch’ the wounds of others.
We hope that as the Church of Malta, we can be Light for the world, that this landing place in the Mediterranean that has been entrusted to us to take care of will become a true meeting place, a bridge of north-south-east-west civilization, and a beacon of hope and reconciliation, to bear witness the peace of God. This is our task. This is the grace for which we pray after this apostolic visit”. (Nadia, Pastoral Delegate for the Archdiocese of Malta)
“Seeing how Pope Francis values those we put on the margins of society, whom we tend to exclude, has given me a boost of energy and commitment to those whose voices are ‘submerged’ … metaphorically, but unfortunately sometimes also literally. Ending the visit to Halfar among the migrants who risked their lives to cross from Africa to Europe was particularly significant for me. The Pope gave us a true example of how to look our brothers and sisters in the eye, of how to welcome them into our society and respect their dignity. How can we say to another human being ‘I’m sorry, we’re full?’ It hurts to note that when an immigrant is injured or even dies on a construction site, no one seems to know his name, where he comes from. It makes us reflect on the important message that every human life counts … it’s not just the numbers”. (Marvic)
“For me and for many others, it was a great joy, an important event, especially for young people, to be able to experience the joy of the renewal of our faith, the encouragement to work for the poor. The Pope’s visit was a blessing for Malta after some sad events such as the protests and the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, it gave people the opportunity to feel united as a Country”. (Kathleen)
“Pope Francis’ visit to Malta brought joy to the faithful and, in a certain sense, strengthened our religiosity and spirituality. Seeing the Holy Father was a wonderful and unforgettable experience. Attending the Holy Mass was a great honor. I hope to see him again someday, if God wills”. (Nada)
At the Angelus of 3 April, Pope Francis thanked the Maltese for their welcome, recalling that “faith grows in joy and is strengthened in the gift.” In concluding, he addressed the young people encouraging them not to forget the roots:
“Dear young friends, I share with you the best thing in life. Do you know what it is? It is the joy of spending oneself in love that sets us free. But this joy has a name: Jesus. I wish you the beauty of falling in love with Jesus, who is the God of mercy, we heard it today in the Gospel, who believes in you, dreams with you, loves your lives, and will never disappoint you. And to always go forward with Jesus also with the family, with the people of God, do not forget the roots. Talk with the older people, talk with your grandparents, talk with the elderly!”.