One thousand, nine hundred and fifty years ago, St Paul, the Apostle, was delivered from the shipwreck through the mighty power of God the Father, our Lord and Master, to undertake the mission of spreading the Word to the people of our islands. Imbued with the power of the Spirit and encouraged by the hope which God Himself instilled in Paul’s heart through His Angel, and as ordained by His Divine Plan, Paul brought to our ancestors, and to us, their descendants, the Good News of the Kingdom of God – a Kingdom as envisaged by Jesus Christ, Son of God made man, who through his birth, life, death and resurrection brought man to eternal life.
Paul the Apostle, our Father, announced to us this new and eternal life. Our ancestors embraced the faith and in so doing, became united as God’s people on this earth. Through the passage of time, this journey, which started at that moment, has also endured storms. Today it is our turn, as heirs of the faith of our forefathers, to give witness to this faith and pass it onto our children. For this, we give thanks to our Lord.
As a loving Father, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, entrusted by Jesus Christ with the mission of guiding the Church in the footsteps of Peter, shall also visit our islands. Like Paul, he shall come and abide among us for a brief period of time, in order to fulfill and fortify us in the faith which the Apostle Paul instilled within us. For this also, we wish to give thanks to our Lord.
His Holiness the Pope will arrive on our islands on Saturday 17th April. Just as Publius, the Governor of Malta welcomed Paul, so too our civil authorities will greet His Holiness at the Presidential Palace.
Following that, the successor of Peter will pay homage to the place where, according to Church tradition, Paul announced the Word of God to the islanders. Thereon, he will join us at St Paul’s Grotto in Rabat, to give thanks to God for his unceasing providence.
On Sunday, 18th April, the day of the Lord, His Holiness will gather the faithful around him, in the same way that Paul gathered our ancestors and together we shall listen to the Word of the Lord. As our father, His Holiness will break the Eucharistic bread with us during a Mass which will be celebrated at the Granaries in Floriana. That same afternoon, he will tread through the waters of the Grand Harbour, en route from Kalkara to the Valletta Waterfront, where he will preside over an encounter with youths, encouraging them to strengthen their faith, fortify their hope and enkindle their hearts in love. From Valletta, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will be escorted to the airport to begin his return journey to the Vatican.
By the grace of God, may we as a nation, greet His Holiness warmly and welcome him as our Father, much in the same way that our ancestors paid homage to Paul and his friends. May his visit instill in us the blessings which we require so that we may continue to live according to God’s will for his Church, in order that through our Christian beliefs and way of life, we may give witness to God’s love, as well as be a light for other nations.
+ PAUL CREMONA O.P.
Archbishop of Malta
+ MARIO GRECH
Bishop of Gozo