Spokesman: Malta Trip Better Than Expected

Half the Population Saw the Pope

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ROME, APRIL 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Half the population of Malta turned out to see Benedict XVI during his 26-hour trip to the island: a fact that points to the effect of the Pope’s 14th international trip.

Back in Rome, the director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, gave the trip a “highly positive evaluation.”

“I would even say better than the expectations of the Maltese organizers,” he suggested. “This because of the warmth of the reception, the unplanned number of people on the streets — all very happy and orderly in showing their enthusiasm — [it was] something that left a deep impression.

“I think that it could confidently be said that some 200,000 people in two days were able to see the Pope.”

The population of Malta is just over 400,000, such that one in every two Maltese citizens participated in Benedict XVI’s visit.

Father Lombardi told Vatican Radio that the high level of participation could be attributed to “the Christian roots of this people and their grand Catholic tradition, which was manifested spontaneously.” And the participation was significant, he proposed, because “due to certain issues and what the press had reported, it wasn’t clear just beforehand how the reception was going to be.”

Speaking of the Pope’s meeting with victims of sexual abuse, the spokesman said the encounter was “very simple, and I would say that the very way in which it transpired was a message: a meeting described, separated, we could say, from the noise of the means of communication and publicity. It was framed by beginning with a moment of prayer, and later continued with a profound listening on the part of the Pope to the words that these people wanted to tell him, everything they carried in their hearts and that they wanted to say to the Pope as a pastor and a father.”
 He continued: “The responses were simple, very spontaneous, sharing the suffering, the prayer, the encouragement, the hope that the Pope could transmit to each one of them.

“It was important that it was a meeting in which each one could express his words to the Pope, since it was about healing the deep personal wounds, and therefore, the way was not to shout messages but rather to listen and dialogue in depth. The Pope was able to do this and concluded again with a common prayer and a blessing of this encounter.

“It seems to me that the testimonies given by the participants themselves, who have wanted to speak freely, have been very positive. I myself, having been present, saw a very, very moving atmosphere, very deep, but also very serene and full of hope, healing and reconciliation.”

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