A 2018 survey, indicates the majority of the Maltese population is Christian (95.2%) with Catholicism at (93.9%). In 2020, the population of Malta was 525,285.
Welcome ceremony at Malta International Airport
Upon his arrival at Malta International Airport, the Holy Father Francis was welcomed by the President of the Republic, HE Mr. George William Vella, and by his consort. Two children in traditional dress presented a floral tribute to the Pope.
After the presentation of the respective Delegations, the performance of the hymns and the Guard of Honor, the President of the Republic and his wife accompanied the Pope to the Presidential Lounge and Ministerial CIP Lounge . Then the Holy Father moved by car to the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta, for the courtesy visit to the President and the meeting with the Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps.
Courtesy visit to the President of the Republic of Malta and brief meeting with the Prime Minister at the Grand Master's Palace
Upon his arrival in the popemobile at the Grand Master's Palace for the courtesy visit, the Holy Father Francis was welcomed by the President of the Republic of Malta, HE Mr. George William Vella, and by his wife who accompanied him to the
Pages' Chamber where he the exchange of gifts took place. Then they went to the Ambassadors' Chamber . After the official photo, the private meeting took place. Then, after the presentation of the family and the Signing of the Book of Honor, the President of the Republic accompanied the Pope to the Pages' Chamber where a brief private meeting took place with the Prime Minister, HE Mr. Robert Abela, and his family. .
At the end, the President, the Pope and the Prime Minister went to the Grand Council Chamber for the meeting with the Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps.
At 11.50 this morning, the Holy Father Francis met the Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps in the Grand Council Chamber of the Grand Master's Palace.
After the greeting of the President of the Republic of Malta, HE Mr. George William Vella, Pope Francis made his speech.
At the end, the Holy Father, the President of the Republic and his Consort, the Prime Minister and his Consort, the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Em.mo Card. Mario Grech, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Malta, HE Charles J. Scicluna, and the Bishop of Gozo, HE Anthony Teuma, appeared from the balcony to greet those present in the square.
Then Pope Francis, before leaving the Palace, took a photo with the Members of Parliament and, after taking leave of the President of the Republic, he moved by car to the Apostolic Nunciature in Malta.
We publish below the speech that the Pope gave during the meeting with the Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps:
Mr. President of the Republic,
Members of the Government and of the Diplomatic Corps,
distinguished religious and civil Authorities,
distinguished Representatives of society and the world of culture,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I cordially greet you and thank the President for the kind words he addressed to me on behalf of all citizens. Your ancestors gave hospitality to the Apostle Paul while he was on his way to Rome, treating him and his traveling companions " with rare humanity" ( Acts 28: 2); now, coming from Rome, I too experience the warm welcome of the Maltese, a treasure that in the country is handed down from generation to generation.
Due to its position Malta can be defined as the heart of the Mediterranean . But not only for the position: the intertwining of historical events and the meeting of populations have made these islands a center of vitality and culture, spirituality and beauty for millennia, a crossroads that has been able to welcome and harmonize influences from many parts. This diversity of influences suggests the variety of winds that characterize the country. It is no coincidence that in the ancient cartographic representations of the Mediterranean the wind rose was often placed near the island of Malta. I would like to borrow the image of the wind rose, which positions the air currents according to the four cardinal points, to outline four essential influences for the social and political life of this country.
It is mainly from the north-west that the winds blow over the Maltese islands. The north recalls Europe, in particular the home of the European Union, built so that a large family lives there united in safeguarding peace. Unity and peace are the gifts that the Maltese people ask of God every time they sing the national anthem. The prayer written by Dun Karm Psaila in fact reads: "Donate, God Almighty, wisdom and mercy to those who govern, health to those who work, and ensure unity and peace for the Maltese people ." Peace follows unity and flows from it. This recalls the importance of working together, of putting cohesion before every division, of reinforcing shared roots and values that have forged the uniqueness of Maltese society.
But to ensure a good social coexistence, it is not enough to consolidate the sense of belonging; it is necessary to strengthen the foundations of common living, which rests on law and legality. Honesty, justice, a sense of duty and transparency are essential pillars of a civilly advanced society. The commitment to remove illegality and corruption must therefore be strong, like the wind that, blowing from the north, sweeps the coasts of the country. And legality and transparency are always cultivated, which make it possible to eradicate crime and crime, united by the fact that they do not act in the light of the sun.
The European house, which is committed to promoting the values of justice and social equity, is also at the forefront of safeguarding the wider house of creation. The environment in which we live is a gift from heaven, as the national anthem still recognizes, asking God to look at the beauty of this earth, mother adorned with the highest light. It is true, in Malta, where the brightness of the landscape alleviates difficulties, creation appears as the gift which, amidst the trials of history and life, recalls the beauty of inhabiting the earth. It must therefore be guarded against voracious greed, greed for money and building speculation, which does not only compromise the landscape, but the future. Instead, environmental protection and social justice prepare the future, and are excellent ways to make young people passionate about good politics,
The north wind often mixes with the west wind . This European country, particularly in its youth, in fact shares Western lifestyles and thinking. From this derive great goods - I am thinking for example of the values of freedom and democracy - but also risks that need to be watched over, so that the desire for progress does not lead to detaching oneself from the roots. Malta is a wonderful "organic development laboratory", where progressing does not mean cutting roots with the past in the name of a false prosperity dictated by profit, by needs induced by consumerism, as well as by the right to have any right. For healthy development, it is important to cherish the memoryand respectfully weave harmony between generations, without allowing oneself to be absorbed by artificial homologations and ideological colonizations, which often occur, for example, in the field of life, of the principle of life. They are ideological colonizations that go against the right to life from the moment of conception.
At the basis of solid growth there is the human person, respect for the life and dignity of every man and woman. I know the commitment of the Maltese to embrace and protect life. Already in the Acts of the Apostles you distinguished yourselves to save so many people. I encourage you to continue to defend life from the beginning to its natural end, but also to guard it at all times from discard and neglect. I am thinking especially of the dignity of workers, the elderly and the sick. And to young people, who risk throwing away the immense good they are, chasing mirages that leave so much emptiness inside. It is what exasperated consumerism, the closure to the needs of others and the plague of drugs, which suffocates freedom by creating addiction, provoke. Let's protect the beauty of life!
Continuing in the wind rose, we look south . From there come many brothers and sisters in search of hope. I would like to thank the authorities and the population for the welcome given to them in the name of the Gospel, humanity and the sense of hospitality typical of the Maltese. According to the Phoenician etymology, Malta means “ safe harbor". However, in the face of the growing influx of recent years, fears and insecurities have generated discouragement and frustration. To properly address the complex issue of migration, it must be placed within broader perspectives of time and space. Of time: the migratory phenomenon is not a circumstance of the moment, but marks our time. It carries with it the debts of past injustices, of so much exploitation, of climate change, of unfortunate conflicts whose consequences are paid. From the poor and populated south, masses of people move towards the richer north: it is a fact, which cannot be rejected with anachronistic closures, because there will be no prosperity and integration in isolation. Then there is space to consider: the expansion of the migratory emergency - let's think of refugees from tormented Ukraine now - calls for broad and shared responses. Some countries cannot take on the whole problem in the indifference of others! And civilized countries cannot establish, for their own interest, murky agreements with criminals who enslave people. Unfortunately this happens. The Mediterranean needs European co-responsibility, to become once again the theater of solidarity and not to be the outpost of a tragic shipwreck of civilization. The to become once again the theater of solidarity and not to be the outpost of a tragic shipwreck of civilization. The to become once again the theater of solidarity and not to be the outpost of a tragic shipwreck of civilization. Themare nostrum cannot become the largest cemetery in Europe.
And speaking of shipwreck, I am thinking of Saint Paul, who arrived on these coasts unexpectedly during his last crossing in the Mediterranean and was rescued. Then, bitten by a viper, he was judged a criminal; shortly after, however, he was considered a divinity for not having suffered consequences ( cf.Acts28.3-6). Between the exaggerations of the two extremes, the primary evidence escaped: Paul was a man, in need of hospitality. Humanity comes first and rewards in everything: this is taught by this country, whose history has benefited from the desperate arrival of the shipwrecked apostle. In the name of the Gospel that he lived and preached, let us enlarge our hearts and rediscover the beauty of serving the needy. We continue on this path. While today, with regard to those who cross the Mediterranean in search of safety, fear and "the narration of the invasion" prevail, and the primary objective seems to be the protection of their own safety at all costs, let's help ourselves not to see the migrant as a threat and not to give in to the temptation to build drawbridges and erect walls. The other is not a virus to defend against, but a person to welcome,Evangelii gaudium , 88). Let's not let indifference extinguish the dream of living together! Of course, welcoming is hard work and requires sacrifices. It was like this for Saint Paul too: to save himself it was first necessary to sacrifice the goods of the ship (cf. Acts 27:38). But the sacrifices made for a greater good, for the life of man, which is God's treasure, are holy!
Finally, there is the wind from the east , which often blows at dawn. Homer called it "Euro" ( OdysseyV, 379.423). But precisely from Eastern Europe, from the East where the light first arises, the darkness of war has come. We thought invasions from other countries, brutal street fighting and atomic threats were dark memories of a distant past. But the icy wind of war, which brings only death, destruction and hatred, has swept over the lives of many and the days of all. And while once again some powerful, sadly locked up in the anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, provokes and foments conflict, ordinary people feel the need to build a future that will either be together or it won't be. Now, on the night of the war that has fallen upon humanity, please don't let the dream of peace vanish.
Malta, which shines with light in the heart of the Mediterranean, can inspire us, because it is urgent to restore beauty to the face of man, disfigured by war. A beautiful Mediterranean statue dating back to centuries before Christ depicts peace, Irene, as a woman holding Pluto, wealth. You remember that peace generates well-being and war only poverty. And she suggests the fact that in the statue peace and wealth are depicted as a mother holding a child in her arms. The tenderness of mothers, who give life to the world, and the presence of women are the real alternative to the wicked logic of power, which leads to war. We need compassion and care, not ideological visions and populisms, which feed on hateful words and do not care about the concrete life of the people, of ordinary people.
More than sixty years ago, to a world threatened by destruction, where ideological contrasts and the iron logic of the alignments dictated the law, a counter-current voice rose from the Mediterranean basin, which exalted its own side opposed a prophetic leap in name of the universal fraternity. It was the voice of Giorgio La Pira, who said: "The historical situation we are experiencing, the clash of interests and ideologies that shake humanity in the throes of an incredible infantilism, give back to the Mediterranean a capital responsibility: to define again the rules of a Measure where the man left to delirium and excessiveness can recognize himself "( Speech at the Mediterranean Congress of Culture , February 19, 1960). They are current words; we can repeat them because they are of great relevance. How much we need a "human measure" in the face of the infantile and destructive aggression that threatens us, in the face of the risk of an "extended cold war" that can suffocate the lives of entire peoples and generations! Unfortunately, that "infantilism" has not disappeared. It re-emerges overwhelmingly in the seductions of autocracy, in the new imperialisms, in widespread aggression, in the inability to build bridges and to leave from the poorest. Today it is so difficult to think with the logic of peace. We are used to thinking with the logic of war. From here the icy wind of war begins to blow, which once again has been fueled over the years. Yes, the war has been preparing for some time with large investments and arms deals. And it is sad to see how the enthusiasm for peace, which arose after the Second World War, has faded in recent decades, as has the path of the international community, with a few powerful people who go forward on their own, in search of spaces and zones. of influence. And so not only peace, but many major issues, such as the fight against hunger and inequality, have been de facto de-classified from the main political agendas.
But the solution to everyone's crises is to take care of everyone's, because global problems require global solutions. Let us help each other to listen to the people's thirst for peace, let us work to lay the foundations for an ever wider dialogue, let us return to meet in international conferences for peace, where the theme of disarmament is central, with an eye to the generations to come! And the huge funds that continue to go to arms are converted to development, health and nutrition.
Still looking to the east, I would finally like to address a thought to the Near Middle East, which is reflected in the language of this country, which harmonizes with others, as if to recall the ability of the Maltese to generate beneficial cohabitation, in a sort of conviviality of differences. . The Middle East needs this: Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and other contexts torn apart by problems and violence. Malta, the heart of the Mediterranean, may continue to beat the heartbeat of hope, the care for life, the acceptance of others, the yearning for peace, with the help of God, whose name is peace.
God bless Malta and Gozo!