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Monday, April 19, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2010 (VIS) - After leaving the apostolic nunciature in Rabat, the Holy Father travelled fifteen kilometres by popemobile to the port of Kalkara. There he boarded a boat that took him the three nautical miles separating Kalkara from the port of Valetta. The Pope's craft, a catamaran, was followed by a flotilla of small boats of kinds typical to the Maltese islands.

  The Pope disembarked in Valetta, and went directly to a stage that had been erected in the port for his meeting with young Maltese, to whom he pronounced an address.

  "I appreciate your desire to seek and find the truth, and to know what you must do to attain the fullness of life", said the Pope, going on to recall how it was as a young man that St. Paul met with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

  "Every personal encounter with Jesus is an overwhelming experience of love", he said. "For the rest of his life, Paul had a burning desire to carry the news of that love to the ends of the earth".

  The Holy Father went on: "Maybe some of you will say to me, St. Paul is often severe in his writings. How can I say that he was spreading a message of love? My answer is this. God loves every one of us with a depth and intensity that we can hardly begin to imagine. And He knows us intimately, He knows all our strengths and all our faults. Because He loves us so much, He wants to purify us of our faults and build up our virtues so that we can have life in abundance. When He challenges us because something in our lives is displeasing to Him, He is not rejecting us, but He is asking us to change and become more perfect. That is what He asked of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. God rejects no-one. And the Church rejects no one. Yet in His great love, God challenges all of us to change and to become more perfect.

  "St. John tells us that perfect love casts out fear", the Holy Father added, and he called on the young people who wish to bring the Gospel to the world not to be afraid. "You may well encounter opposition to the Gospel message. Today's culture, like every culture, promotes ideas and values that are sometimes at variance with those lived and preached by our Lord Jesus Christ. Often they are presented with great persuasive power, reinforced by the media and by social pressure from groups hostile to the Christian faith.

  "It is easy, when we are young and impressionable, to be swayed by our peers to accept ideas and values that we know are not what the Lord truly wants for us. That is why I say to you: do not be afraid, but rejoice in His love for you; trust Him, answer His call to discipleship, and find nourishment and spiritual healing in the Sacraments of the Church".

  Pope Benedict continued: "Here in Malta, you live in a society that is steeped in Christian faith and values. You should be proud that your country both defends the unborn and promotes stable family life ... for a healthy society. ... In the context of European society, Gospel values are once again becoming counter-cultural, just as they were at the time of St. Paul".

  "As Christians", he concluded, "we are called to manifest God's all-inclusive love; ... we should have a special care for those who are in distress, ... we should be attentive to the needs of immigrants and asylum seekers in our midst; we should extend the hand of friendship to members of all faiths and none. That is the noble vocation of love and service that we have all received. Let it inspire you to dedicate your lives to following Christ".

  At the conclusion of the meeting, the Pope travelled to Luqa airport for his return flight to Rome.
PV-MALTA/                                VIS 20100419 (680)

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