Maltese Have Great Respect for Pope, Says Prelate


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VALLETTA, Malta, APRIL 16, 2010 ( The Church in Malta is expressing enthusiasm about the forthcoming visit of Benedict XVI for the celebration of the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck on the island.

Archbishop Paul Cremona of Malta stated on Vatican Radio that the people are awaiting the Pope's arrival with "great enthusiasm, many expectations and a sense of gratitude."

The archdiocese of this country, located south of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, has prepared its faithful for the Pontiff's Saturday arrival by disseminating some of the Holy Father's writings in English and Maltese, among them the book "Jesus of Nazareth."

It produced a television spot as well as programs for radio and the Internet to prepare the nation's 414,000 inhabitants for the event.

Archbishop Cremona said that the Maltese people "need this joy of being all together as a community that welcomes the Pope."

He affirmed that the Pontiff's messages will give the country "a direction that I hope will help us to define the future of our Church in this changing world with the strength that comes from faith and hope in God."


As the Church on the island celebrates the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's surprise arrival there, the prelate reflected on the meaning of that event.

The Apostles of the Gentiles had not planned to travel to Malta, however, "with a storm, Divine Providence brought St. Paul here," he said. "Hence we must try to understand the reason: Now we know that -- thanks to this event -- for 2,000 years there has been Catholic Christian continuity on this island."

The archbishop of Malta spoke about the fruits of the Pauline Year, which ended last June, in his country.

He noted that the faithful of his flock benefited from courses on St. Paul's teachings and pilgrimages to the places where the Apostle traveled, such as Turkey and Rome, where the saint carried out many works of mercy. Cultural activities were also organized to help people learn about the shipwreck on Malta.

Archbishop Cremona acknowledged that St. Paul's presence almost 2,000 years ago brings great responsibility to the people: "We must know his letters, his life, try to live it as he lived it and the way he transmitted it to the Maltese."

Today, Catholics in this country represents 94% of the population. There are 365 churches (the Maltese say there is one for every day of the year) and a large number of religious celebrations.

According to Archbishop Cremona, more than 52% of the Maltese regularly attend Sunday Mass. A third of the children attend Catholic schools.

The small city of Valletta, capital of Malta, which has some 20,000 inhabitants, was built by architect Francesco Laparelli, sent to the nation by Pope Pius IV.

The prelate noted that today, the relation between the papacy and this city is very strong.

Faith and culture

"There is much respect for the Pope," said the archbishop. "The memory of the two visits John Paul II made to this island is very present."

He added that faith should go beyond a cultural expression, noting, "Today with the great external influence of the media, faith must be a personal decision that leads to an experience of God, which changes our hearts, our way of seeing God, life and others."

The prelate added that faith should lead to "an experience of the Holy Spirit in order to be also a Church open to others."

He stated that the Archdiocese of Malta seeks to present to Catholics a faith like that of the early Church, to offer "a space where one can share one's own experience of faith and love of Jesus Christ, starting from the Eucharist."

"We wish to say that the Church begins in the great love that God the Father has for all men," Archbishop Cremona said.

He underlined the Church's activity in the social realm, noting that it was the first institution to establish a structure for the victims of drugs, and runs other organizations for social action. He reported that Caritas Malta works especially with the handicapped and drug addicts.

Archbishop Cremona said that he hoped the Pope's message to the Maltese can be transmitted "as a vision, also as an action of our local Church."

He underlined the need for a faith that "wants to assume the commitment to transmit its message to all the members of the Church and of Maltese society with all the means at its disposal."