VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says he was welcomed in Malta last Saturday and Sunday with the same warmth given to St. Paul some 1,950 years ago after he shipwrecked on the island.
The Pope reflected today at the general audience on the “truly extraordinary” welcome he found during his 26-hour trip to the Mediterranean island.
“The history of these people for 2,000 years is inseparable from the Catholic faith, which characterizes its culture and traditions,” the Holy Father explained. “It is said that in Malta there are 365 churches, ‘one for each day of the year,’ a visible sign of this profound faith!”
The Pontiff proposed that the history of Catholicism in Malta “stirs a sentiment of great amazement in face of the mysterious plans of Divine Providence.”
“Arising spontaneously is gratitude to the Lord and also to St. Paul, who, in the midst of that violent storm, kept his confidence and hope and transmitted them also to his travel companions,” he said.
There’s no reason to fear the “storms” and “shipwrecks” of life, the Bishop of Rome continued, “because the plan of the love of God is even greater than the storms and shipwrecks.”
Benedict XVI reflected that from Paul’s shipwreck, or rather from his “subsequent sojourn in Malta, was born a fervent and solid Christian community, which after 2,000 years is still faithful to the Gospel and makes an effort to combine it with the complex questions of the contemporary age.”
Though shedding the light of the Gospel on the challenges of today isn’t easy, the Pope acknowledged, he praised Malta’s “Christian vision,” saying concrete signs of it are “their profound respect for unborn life and for the sacredness of marriage.” Abortion and divorce have not been introduced in the country’s juridical system, he noted.
The Holy Father said his trip to this deeply Catholic country was a personal consolation for him.
He noted that the public Mass he celebrated had fervent participation from the faithful.
“It was for me,” he affirmed, “a motive of joy and also of consolation, to feel the particular warmth of that people, which gives the feeling of a great family, united by the faith and Christian vision of life.”
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