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Sunday, April 18, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2010 (VIS) - At 10 a.m. today the Pope celebrated Mass at the Floriana Granaries in Malta, the island's largest square which is used to host the most important civil and religious celebrations and can accommodate up to 10,000 people.

  In his homily the Holy Father encouraged the faithful to trust in God and follow His teachings in order to gather an abundant harvest.

  "Not everything that today's world proposes is worthy of acceptance by the people of Malta", he said. "Many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and His Church, and to choose for ourselves the values and beliefs by which to live. They tell us we have no need of God or the Church. If we are tempted to believe them, we should recall the incident in today's Gospel" of the miraculous catch of fish. "When Jesus appeared on the shore, He directed them to a catch so great that they could scarcely haul it in".

  Commenting on the first reading of today's Mass, recounting St. Paul's shipwreck on the shores of Malta "and his warm reception by the people of these islands", the Pope highlighted how the crew of the ship were forced to throw the cargo overboard, as the Apostle "urged them to place their trust in God alone while the ship was tossed to and fro upon the waves. We too", said Benedict XVI, "must place our trust in Him alone.

  "It is tempting to think that today's advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us", he added. "But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in Whom we live and move and have our being. Only He can protect us from harm, only He can guide us through the storms of life, only He can bring us to a safe haven, as He did for Paul and his companions adrift off the coast of Malta".

  "It is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfilment", said the Pope, noting how God "calls us to a relationship of love. ... It is our love for the Lord that must inform every aspect of our preaching and teaching, our celebration of the Sacraments, and our care for the people of God. It is our love for the Lord that moves us to love those whom He loves, and to accept gladly the task of communicating His love to those we serve".

  "In every area of our lives we need the help of God's grace. With Him, we can do all things: without Him we can do nothing", said Benedict XVI.

  He then encouraged the faithful to "preserve the faith and values transmitted to you by your father the Apostle St. Paul. Continue to explore the richness and depth of Paul's gift to you and be sure to hand it on not only to your children, but to all those you encounter today. No visitor to Malta could fail to be impressed by the devotion of your people, the vibrant faith manifested in your feast-day celebrations, the beauty of your churches and shrines. But that gift needs to be shared with others, it needs to be articulated".

  Going on then to refer to Malta's first canonised saint, Dun Gorg Preca, the Pope highlighted "his tireless work of catechesis, inspiring young and old with a love for Christian doctrine and a deep devotion to the Incarnate Word of God". This "set an example that I urge you to maintain", he told his audience.

  In closing his homily, the Pope addressed some words to members of the clergy present at the celebration, in the context of the current Year for Priests. "Dun Gorg was a priest of remarkable humility, goodness, meekness and generosity, deeply devoted to prayer and with a passion for communicating the truths of the Gospel. Let him serve as a model and an inspiration for you".

  "Remember, too, the question that the Risen Lord put three times to Peter: 'Do you love me?' That is the question He asks each of you. Do you love Him? Do you wish to serve Him through the gift of your whole lives? Do you long to bring others to know and love Him? With Peter, have the courage to answer, 'Yes, Lord, you know I love you', and accept with grateful hearts the beautiful task He has assigned you. The mission entrusted to priests is truly a service to joy, to God's joy which longs to break into the world".

  After Mass, and before praying the Regina Coeli, the Holy Father mentioned the "particular devotion of the Maltese people to the Mother of God, expressed with great fervour to Our Lady of Ta' Pinu", whose image was "brought here specially from Gozo for this occasion. I am also delighted to present a golden rose to her, as a sign of our shared filial affection for the Mother of God.

  "I ask you in particular to pray to her under the title Queen of the Family, a title added to the Litany of Loreto by my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, himself on more than one occasion a visitor to these shores. In offering you this tangible memento of my own visit, I thank you for all that I have received from you in return, especially for the warmth of your devotion and the support of your prayers for my ministry as the Successor of Peter".

  Following Mass and the Regina Coeli, the Benedict XVI travelled to the apostolic nunciature in Rabat, where he had lunch with the bishops of Malta and the papal entourage.
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2010 (VIS) - As is the custom on his apostolic trips abroad, the Pope held a brief meeting with journalists accompanying him on his flight to Malta this afternoon.

  In his remarks to them, he briefly summarised the reasons for his trip to Malta, the first of which is St. Paul. "The universal Church's Pauline Year has ended, but Malta is celebrating 1950 years since his shipwreck, and this occasion again throws light on the important figure of the Apostle to the Gentiles and his message, which is still important today", he said. "I think we can summarise the essential point in words he himself used at the end of the Letter to the Galatians: 'Faith expressed in charity'.

  "Faith, the relationship with God which then transforms itself into charity, is still important today. But I also think that the memory of the shipwreck says something to us. For Malta, the opportunity to have the faith was born with the shipwreck. Thus we too can see how the shipwrecks of life can be part of God's project for us, and be useful for a new beginning to our lives.

  "The second reason is that it I am glad be in the midst of a lively Church such as that in Malta, which even today is rich in vocations, which is full of faith and responds to the challenges of our time. I am aware that Malta loves Christ and loves His Church which is His Body, and that it knows that, even if this body is wounded by our sins, the Lord still loves His Church, ... and His Gospel is the true force that purifies and heals.

  "The third point is that Malta is a place where waves of refugees arrive from Africa and knock on the doors of Europe. This is a great problem of our time, and naturally it cannot be resolved just by the island of Malta. All of us have to respond to this challenge, first of all so that people can live a dignified life in their own land, and on the other hand so that these refugees can also find space for a dignified life here. It means responding to a great challenge of our time, and Malta reminds us of these problems. It also reminds us that faith is the force which leads to charity, which allows us to respond well to these challenges".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2010 (VIS) - At 3.30 p.m. today the Pope departed from Rome's Fiumicino airport, landing an hour and a half later at Luqa international airport in Malta, thus beginning the fourteenth apostolic trip of his pontificate.

  Following a welcome speech by George Abela, president of the Republic of Malta, the Holy Father pronounced his address:

  "The occasion of my visit to these islands is the 1950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck off the island of Malta", he said. "St. 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: 'We are to be stranded on some island'".

  Benedict XVI highlighted how Malta "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. ... To these shores, then, in the mysterious designs of God, the Gospel was brought by St. Paul and the early followers of Christ. Their missionary work has borne much fruit over the centuries, contributing in innumerable ways to shaping Malta's rich and noble culture".

  "You", the Pope told the Maltese people, "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 Government's 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", he added, "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".

  Noting the fact that "Malta also has close links to the near East, not only in cultural and religious terms, but even linguistically", the Pope pointed out that "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", he concluded, "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 nation's 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 Gorg Preca, whom I was pleased to canonise 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".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2010 (VIS) - Following his courtesy visit to the president of the Republic of Malta at the Grand Masters' Palace in the island's capital city of Valletta, the Holy Father travelled thirteen kilometres by car to the church of St. Paul at Rabat where he was greeted by 250 missionaries.

  Having prayed for a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament, the Pope descended the steps that lead into the Cave of St. Paul, which is considered to be the cornerstone of the Church in Malta because, according to tradition, the Apostle preached there for three months following his shipwreck on the island. In the Middle Ages a cemetery and various chapels were raised around the site. The first church was built in 1463, later replaced by two others, the latest of which dates from 1653.

  The Pope prayed in the cave, then signed the visitors' book and presented a silver votive lamp to the shrine. Emerging from the grotto, and having been greeted by Archbishop Paul Cremona O.P. of Malta, the Pope delivered an address from the atrium of the church to the faithful gathered in the square.

  "Paul's shipwreck and his three-month stay in Malta left an indelible mark upon the history of your country", said the Holy Father. "His words to his companions prior to his arrival in Malta, ... 'we are to be stranded on some island', in their original context, are a summons to courage in the face of the unknown and to unfailing confidence in God's mysterious providence".

  "In God's plan, St. Paul thus became your father in the Christian faith. Thanks to his presence among you, the Gospel of Jesus Christ took deep root and bore fruit not only in the lives of individuals, families and communities, but also in the formation of Malta's national identity and its vibrant and distinctive culture". In this context, the Pope made specific mention of the many Maltese missionaries, encouraging them "in their challenging and often heroic vocation".

  "St. Paul's arrival in Malta was not planned", the Holy Father went on. "Sailors can map a journey, but God, in His wisdom and providence, charts a course of His own. Paul, who dramatically encountered the Risen Lord while on the road to Damascus, knew this well. The course of his life was suddenly changed" and "his every thought and action was directed to proclaiming the mystery of the Cross and its message of God's reconciling love.

  "That same word, the word of the Gospel, still has the power to break into our lives and to change their course", Benedict XVI added. "Today the same Gospel which Paul preached continues to summon the people of these islands to conversion, new life and a future of hope".

  "From this holy place where the apostolic preaching first spread throughout these islands, I call upon each of you to take up the exciting challenge of the new evangelisation. ... In a particular way I urge parents, teachers and catechists to speak of your own living encounter with the Risen Jesus to others, especially the young people who are Malta's future".

  "The world needs this witness!", the Pope concluded. "In the face of so many threats to the sacredness of human life, and to the dignity of marriage and the family, do not our contemporaries need to be constantly reminded of the grandeur of our dignity as God's children and the sublime vocation we have received in Christ? Does not society need to re-appropriate and defend those fundamental moral truths which remain the foundation of authentic freedom and genuine progress?".

  Following his visit to the Cave of St. Paul. the Holy Father travelled to the apostolic nunciature in Rabat, where he spent the night.
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2010 (VIS) - Benedict XVI has sent a telegram of condolence to Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, superior general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), for the death of Cardinal Tomas Spidlik S.J., who died in Rome yesterday at the age of 90.

  "The pious demise of Cardinal Tomas Spidlik, distinguished Jesuit and zealous servant of the Gospel, has aroused deep commotion in my heart. It is with profound gratitude that I recall his solid faith, his paternal affability and his intense cultural and ecclesial labours, especially as an authoritative expert on Eastern Christian spirituality. I raise fervent prayers to the Lord that, by the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin and of St. Ignatius of Loyola, He may give the deceased cardinal the eternal prize promised to His faithful disciples. And to you, to the Society of Jesus, and to everyone who knew him and appreciated his gifts of mind and heart, I send a heartfelt and comforting apostolic blessing".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted:

 - The resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Ekiti, Nigeria, presented by Bishop Michael Patrick Olatunji Fagun, upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Felix Temi Ajakaye.

 - The resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Awka, Nigeria, presented by Bishop Simon Akwali Okafor, upon having reached the age limit.
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