LUQA, Malta, APRIL 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Although Benedict XVI’s apostolic trip to Malta lasted only two days, his presence will be felt in the nation for “a long time to come,” according to the Maltese president.
George Abela said this today at Malta’s International Airport at the farewell ceremony that brought an end to the Pontiff’s 26-hour visit to the country.
“Your spirit will remain with us to continue nourishing our faith for a long time to come,” he said, adding that the Holy Father supplied Malta with the “provisions we need, the gifts which only our pastor can bestow.”
Abela told Benedict XVI that he believes the Maltese will “continue to openly and eloquently profess their faith and the Christian values of charity and solidarity with all mankind and to endeavor to share these gifts with others, not only in this country but also beyond our shores as so many Maltese missionaries do in many countries around the world.”
“Hope has been renewed in us and we have been strengthened to face our future more securely even in our daily lives,” he added.
The president also thanked the Pope for meeting with a small group of victims of clerical sexual abuse earlier today: “We were all moved today to learn that you personally met victims who allege abuse who requested to see you, and that they found comfort in your words that I am sure will relieve some of the pain they have suffered for many years.”
“Your sensitivity to their plight fills us with joy,” said Abela, “and I wish to thank you for finding the time to personally address this delicate issue.”
In his address, Benedict XVI said that his time in Malta gave him “a deeper appreciation of how the Gospel preached by St. Paul has shaped the spiritual identity of the Maltese people.”
“As I leave you,” he said, “let me encourage you once more to cultivate a deep awareness of your identity and to embrace the responsibilities that flow from it, especially by promoting the Gospel values that will grant you a clear vision of human dignity and the common origin and destiny of mankind.”
The Pontiff then encouraged the people of Malta to “be an example, at home and abroad, of dynamic Christian living. Be proud of your Christian vocation. Cherish your religious and cultural heritage.
“Look to the future with hope, with profound respect for God’s creation, with reverence for human life, and with high esteem for marriage and the integrity of the family!”
He added in Maltese, “Be worthy sons and daughters of St. Paul!”
Benedict XVI then addressed the problem of the mass immigration of refugees exiting Africa and heading to Europe, a problem he called a “great challenge of our time” during a press conference en route to Malta.
The Pope encouraged the Maltese to do what they can to alleviate the suffering of those in search of a better life: “Many immigrants arrive on Malta’s shores, some fleeing from situations of violence and persecution, others in search of better conditions of life.
“I am aware of the difficulties that welcoming a large number of people may cause, difficulties which cannot be solved by any country of first arrival on its own.
“At the same time, I am also confident that, on the strength of its Christian roots and its long and proud history of welcoming strangers, Malta will endeavor, with the support of other states and international organizations, to come to the aid of those who arrive here and to ensure that their rights be respected.”
The Holy Father said the ability of Malta to carry out this task depends on “an unwavering dedication to […] dialogue and cooperation within the international and European communities, key forums in which Malta bears witness to the Christian values that have helped to shape her identity.”
“Unity, solidarity and mutual respect stand at the basis of your social and political life,” he added. “Inspired by your Catholic faith, they are the compass that will guide you in the search for authentic and integral development.
“The treasure of the Church’s social teaching will inspire and guide these efforts. Never allow your true identity to be compromised by indifferentism or relativism.”
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text of Pope’s address: www.zenit.org/article-28955?l=english
Full text of Abela’s address: www.zenit.org/article-28957?l=english