Benedict XVI's visit to Malta, April 2010

 

Pope's Comments En Route to Malta
"Even ... Wounded by Our Sins, The Lord Still Loves This Church"

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, APRIL 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the transcription of the brief press conference Benedict XVI gave today aboard the papal plane en route to Malta. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, facilitated the encounter with the journalists.

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Father Lombardi: Dear friends, His Holiness is here again with us on the occasion of the first of five trips planned for this year.

[Holy Father], we are very grateful to be with you at the beginning of this trip. This way we can congratulate you on the occasion of two anniversaries to take place in these days: that of yesterday, your birthday, and that of next Monday [the fifth anniversary of his election as Pope].

The Holy Father received the questions that some of you presented and which express in a certain sense the expectations that we all have at the beginning of this trip, and for this reason he will offer some reflections, some considerations, responding to our expectations. We will not follow the usual question-and-answer format of other trips; we will allow the Holy Father to offer a synthetic response. Thank you, Holy Father, and have a good trip.

Benedict XVI: Dear friends, good evening! We hope for a good trip, but without this dark cloud that is hanging over a part of Europe.

So, why this trip to Malta? There are many reasons.

The first is St. Paul. The Pauline Year for the universal Church has concluded, but Malta is celebrating 1,950 years since his shipwreck, and this is for me an occasion to underline once again the great figure of the Apostle to the Gentiles, and his important message, precisely for the world today. I think one can synthesize the essence of his journey with the words he himself used toward the end of the letter to the Galatians: "faith working through love." This is something important also for today: Faith, a relationship with God, transforms itself into charity.

I also think the memory of the shipwreck says something to us. With the shipwreck, Malta was given to opportunity to have the faith. In this way, we can also think about how the shipwrecks of life can be part of God's project for us, and be useful for a new beginning in our life.

The second reason: I like to be in the midst of a lively church such as the one in Malta, which is fruitful still today in vocations, full of faith in the midst of our times, and responds to the challenges of our times. I know that Malta loves Christ, and loves his church, which is his body. And [Malta] knows that even if this body is wounded by our sins, the Lord still loves this Church, and its Gospel is the true strength that purifies and heals.

Third point: Malta is the place where waves of refugees arrive from Africa and knock on the door of Europe. This is a great problem of our time, and naturally, the island of Malta cannot resolve it. We all have to respond to this challenge. We must work so that all can live a dignified life in their own land. Also, we must do all that is possible so that these refugees can find room for a dignified life here. It means responding to a great challenge of our time. Malta reminds us of these problems. It also reminds us that faith is the strength of charity -- as well as the imagination -- that allows us to respond well to these challenges. Thank you.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness, and have a good trip. We will accompany you with our work and our information.

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Papal Address Upon Arriving in Malta
"Serve As a Bridge of Understanding"

LUQA, Malta, APRIL 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon arriving at the Malta International Airport in Luqa, at the beginning of his two-day trip to the island nation.

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Mr President,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jien kuntent ?afna li ninsab fostkom! [I am delighted to be here with you!]

It gives me great joy to be here in Malta with you today. I come among you as a pilgrim to worship the Lord and to praise him for the wonders he has worked here. I come also as the Successor of Saint Peter to confirm you in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) and to join you in prayer to the one living and true God, in the company of all the Saints, including the great Apostle of Malta, Saint Paul. Though my visit to your country is short, I pray that it will bear much fruit.

I am grateful, Mr President, for the kind words with which you have greeted me in your own name and on behalf of the Maltese people. I thank you for your invitation and for the hard work that you and the Government have done in order to prepare for my visit. I thank the Prime Minister, the civil and military authorities, the members of the Diplomatic Corps and everyone present, for honouring this occasion by your presence and for your cordial welcome.

I greet in a special way Archbishop Paul Cremona, Bishop Mario Grech and Auxiliary Bishop Annetto Depasquale, as well as the other Bishops present. In greeting you, I wish to express my affection for the priests, deacons, men and women Religious and all the lay faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.

The occasion of my visit to these islands is the nineteen hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Saint Paulís shipwreck off the island of Malta. Saint Luke describes this event in the Acts of the Apostles, and it is from his account that you have chosen the theme of this visit: "Je?tieg iz.da li naslu fi gz.ira" ["But we are to be stranded on some island"] (Acts 27:26). Some might consider Saint Paulís arrival in Malta by means of a humanly unforeseen event to be a mere accident of history. The eyes of faith, however, enable us to recognize here the workings of divine Providence.

Malta, in fact, has been at the crossroads of many of the great events and cultural exchanges in European and Mediterranean history, right up to our own times. These islands have played a key role in the political, religious and cultural development of Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. To these shores, then, in the mysterious designs of God, the Gospel was brought by Saint Paul and the early followers of Christ. Their missionary work has borne much fruit over the centuries, contributing in innumerable ways to shaping Maltaís rich and noble culture.

On account of their geographical position, these islands have been of great strategic importance on more than one occasion, even in recent times: indeed, the George Cross upon your national flag proudly testifies to your peopleís great courage during the dark days of the last world war. Likewise, the fortifications that feature so prominently in the islandís architecture speak of earlier struggles, when Malta contributed so much to the defence of Christianity by land and by sea. You continue to play a valuable role in the ongoing debates on European identity, culture and policy. At the same time, I am pleased to note your Governmentís commitment to humanitarian projects further afield, especially in Africa. It is greatly to be hoped that this will serve to promote the welfare of those less fortunate than yourselves, as an expression of genuine Christian charity.

Indeed, Malta has much to contribute to questions as diverse as tolerance, reciprocity, immigration, and other issues crucial to the future of this continent. Your Nation should continue to stand up for the indissolubility of marriage as a natural institution as well as a sacramental one, and for the true nature of the family, just as it does for the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death and for the proper respect owed to religious freedom in ways that bring authentic integral development to individuals and society.

Malta also has close links to the near East, not only in cultural and religious terms, but even linguistically. Allow me to encourage you to put this ensemble of skills and strengths to ever greater use so as to serve as a bridge of understanding between the peoples, cultures and religions which surround the Mediterranean. Much has still to be done to build relationships of genuine trust and fruitful dialogue, and Malta is well placed to hold out the hand of friendship to her neighbours to north and south, to east and west.

The Maltese people, enlightened for almost two millennia by the teachings of the Gospel and continually fortified by their Christian roots, are rightly proud of the indispensable role that the Catholic faith has played in their nationís development. The beauty of our faith is expressed in various and complementary ways here, not least in the lives of holiness which have led Maltese to give of themselves for the good of others. Among these we must include Dun G.or? Preca, whom I was pleased to canonize just three years ago (3 June, 2007). I invite all of you to invoke his intercession for the spiritual fruitfulness of this, my first pastoral visit among you.

I look forward to praying with you during my time in Malta and I wish, as a father and as a brother, to assure you of my affection for you and my eagerness to share this time with you in faith and friendship. With these thoughts, I entrust all of you to the protection of Our Lady of Taí Pinu and your father in the faith, the great Apostle Paul.

Il-Mulej ibierek lill-poplu kollu taí Malta u taí G?awdex! [God bless all the people of Malta and Gozo!].

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Words at Grotto of St. Paul
"Take Up the Exciting Challenge of the New Evangelization"

RABAT, Malta, APRIL 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon visiting the Church of St. Paul in Rabat. The Pope arrived in Malta today for a two-day trip.

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Dear Archbishop Cremona,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My pilgrimage to Malta has begun with a moment of silent prayer at the Grotto of Saint Paul, who first brought the faith to these islands. I have come in the footsteps of those countless pilgrims down the centuries who have prayed in this holy place, entrusting themselves, their families and the welfare of this nation to the intercession of the Apostle of the Gentiles. I rejoice to be at last in your midst and I greet all of you with great affection in the Lord!

Paulís shipwreck and his three-month stay in Malta left an indelible mark upon the history of your country. His words to his companions prior to his arrival in Malta are recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles and have been a special theme in your preparation for my visit. Those words Ė "Je?tieg iz.da li naslu fi gz.ira" ["But we are to be stranded on some island"] (Acts 27:26). Ė in their original context are a summons to courage in the face of the unknown and to unfailing confidence in Godís mysterious providence. The castaways were, in fact, warmly welcomed by the Maltese people, following the lead given by Saint Publius. In Godís plan, Saint Paul thus became your father in the Christian faith. Thanks to his presence among you, the Gospel of Jesus Christ took deep root and bore fruit not only in the lives of individuals, families and communities, but also in the formation of Maltaís national identity and its vibrant and distinctive culture.

Paulís apostolic labours also bore a rich harvest in the generations of preachers who followed in his footsteps, and particularly in the great number of priests and religious who imitated his missionary zeal by leaving Malta in order to bring the Gospel to distant shores. I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet so many of them today in this Church of Saint Paul, and to encourage them in their challenging and often heroic vocation. Dear missionaries: I thank all of you, in the name of the whole Church, for your witness to the Risen Lord and for your lives spent in the service of others. Your presence and activity in so many countries of the world brings honour to your country and testifies to an evangelical impulse deeply embedded in the Church in Malta. Let us ask the Lord to raise up many more men and women to carry forward the noble mission of proclaiming the Gospel and working for the advancement of Christís Kingdom in every land and people!

Saint Paulís arrival in Malta was not planned. As we know, he was travelling to Rome when a violent storm arose and his ship ran aground on this island. Sailors can map a journey, but God, in his wisdom and providence, charts a course of his own. Paul, who dramatically encountered the Risen Lord while on the road to Damascus, knew this well. The course of his life was suddenly changed; henceforth, for him, to live was Christ (cf. Phil 1:21); his every thought and action was directed to proclaiming the mystery of the Cross and its message of Godís reconciling love.

That same word, the word of the Gospel, still has the power to break into our lives and to change their course. Today the same Gospel which Paul preached continues to summon the people of these islands to conversion, new life and a future of hope. Standing in your midst as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I invite you to hear Godís word afresh, as your ancestors did, and to let it challenge your ways of thinking and the way you live your lives.

From this holy place where the apostolic preaching first spread throughout these islands, I call upon each of you to take up the exciting challenge of the new evangelization. Live out your faith ever more fully with the members of your families, with your friends, in your neighbourhoods, in the workplace and in the whole fabric of Maltese society. In a particular way I urge parents, teachers and catechists to speak of your own living encounter with the Risen Jesus to others, especially the young people who are Maltaís future. "Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!" (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 2). Believe that your moments of faith assure an encounter with God, who in his mighty power touches human hearts. In this way, you will introduce the young to the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith, and offer them a sound catechesis, inviting them to ever more active participation in the sacramental life of the Church.

The world needs this witness! In the face of so many threats to the sacredness of human life, and to the dignity of marriage and the family, do not our contemporaries need to be constantly reminded of the grandeur of our dignity as Godís children and the sublime vocation we have received in Christ? Does not society need to reappropriate and defend those fundamental moral truths which remain the foundation of authentic freedom and genuine progress?

Just now, as I stood before this Grotto, I reflected on the great spiritual gift (cf. Rom 1:11) which Paul gave to Malta, and I prayed that you might keep unblemished the heritage bequeathed to you by the great Apostle. May the Lord confirm you and your families in the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6), and make you joyful witnesses to the hope which never disappoints (cf. Rom 5:5). Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Maltese President's Welcome to Pontiff
"We Still Cherish a Code of Values, Nourished by Our Faith"

LUQA, Malta, APRIL 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address delivered today by George Abela, president of Malta, on the ocassion of welcoming Benedict XVI to the country for a two-day visit.

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Your Holiness,

Mer?ba fil-Gz.ira ta' San Pawl - Welcome to the Island of St. Paul on this Your first Apostolic visit to our Island coinciding with your birthday which was yesterday, on behalf of the People of Malta and Gozo, on my own behalf and on behalf of my wife Margaret, I wish you "Ad multos annos".

I still have vivid memories of my inspiring meeting with you last June, during the customary first official visit outside Malta of every Maltese President, when your departing words were "I hope I will see you next time in Malta".

We rejoice today that the Successor of St. Peter, St. Peter the Apostle friend of St. Paul, is amongst us to commemorate with his faithful flock, the one thousand, nine hundred and fiftieth (1950) anniversary of the shipwreck in Malta of St. Paul in the year 60.

St. Paul, as we find recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, was on his way to trial in Rome when a storm caused all the two hundred seventy six (276) passengers on board the vessel to seek shelter on the Island of Malta, then known as Melite, which was a Roman possession. The inhabitants, described by Luke as barbaroi, and therefore spoke no Greek or Latin, were pagan but treated the Apostle and all the shipwrecked with "unusual hospitality by kindling a fire because of the rain and the cold". He healed the father of Publius, the Protos, chief man of the Island and afterwards, others came to Paul and were also cured. What appears from archaeological remains to have been a sophisticated Roman city, Melite, thrived at the centre of the Island where Mdina and Rabat are now built. It seems Paul had some freedom of movement since he was highly regarded by Julius, the Roman centurion guarding him and since he usually exercised his mission in an urban environment, it is likely that he went to this city and may have met members of the community living there. St. Paul's Grotto, which has been traditionally associated with Paul for centuries, is found precisely in this neighbourhood.

Although the Acts are silent as to St. Paul's preaching and the inhabitants' conversion, it is unimaginable that the Apostle of the Gentiles, who described himself as "Zealous for God", could have lived three months on the Island, as recounted in the Acts, without preaching to its inhabitants the message of Redemption. It is also natural to presume that a small community of Christians was born around the figure of the Apostle. The idea of God, as entertained by our ancestors before the shipwreck, had progressively changed during St. Paul's stay in Malta from that "of the Avenging Judge, as recounted when the viper came out of the fire and stuck to Paul's hand, into that of God the Healer, the Pardoner and the Saviour". This is how the conversion of our fore-fathers happened.

St. Paul is therefore generally accepted as having sown the first seeds of evangelisation on this land and of having led its people to their first encounter with Jesus or "with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" as you aptly describe, Holy Father, in your encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est". This means that the people of our Islands were fortunate enough to have received the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven even before the first gospel is believed to have been written.

This was a definite moment in our history which has to be viewed not only in its historical and religious perspective but also in its moral and cultural implications because it laid the ethical and intellectual foundations of our State. It gave Malta a new identity: a Christian identity which gradually replaced the pagan, polytheistic culture into a Christian one.

While bearing in mind these historical roots, we must now look at the present time and ask ourselves the pertinent question: Where does Malta stand today? What would the same Apostle Paul say of Malta today had he been around to see all that has taken place since that time?

Malta is not only an independent country today but it has also reached a level of economic and social development which has enabled it to become a Member State of the European Union. Like all the rest of Europe and the western world, we are now facing a conflict between Christianity on one side and laicism or secularism on the other which in the words of philosopher Marcello Pera, as he recently described it in Il Corriere della Sera, whilst referring to Europe : "e in corso una guerra. La guerra e' fra il laicismo e il cristianesimo". [as in the middle of a war. The war is between secularism and Christianity.]

And, in drawing parallels with Nazism and Communism he reiterates that:

"Oggi come ieri, cio' che si vuole e' la distruzione della religione. Allora l'Europa pago` a questa furia distruttrice il prezzo della propria liberta'... la stessa democrazia sarebbe perduta se il cristianesimo venisse ancora cancellato". [Today as yesterday, there are those who wish to destroy religion. So Europe pays the price of its own liberty for this destructive furyÖ democracy itself would be lost if Christianity were yet to be eliminated.]

Today, we face the wave of secularism which has as its starting point the strict separation of Church and State: a laicist model advocating that the State should be strictly separate from religion which is conceived as belonging exclusively to the private domain. This profane character which has developed in some European States is driving people to be laicist or even anti-Christian.

However, as we all know or as we all should know, the moral foundations of a society as a whole, comprising believers, agnostics or atheists, are better served not with the falling away from religion but with the reinvigoration of the moral consciousness of the State. As Your Holiness has splendidly described it in your book "Values in a time of Upheaval":

"One point that is fundamental in all cultures, is namely, reverence for that which is holy to other persons, and reverence to the Holy One, God. One can certainly demand this even of those who are not themselves willing to believe in God. Where this reverence is shattered, something in a society perishes".

Holy Father, those of us who believe, are fortified by these fundamental values enunciated by the Church and, though we acknowledge that church members, even its ministers, may, at times, unfortunately go astray, we are left in no doubt that these values have universal application and their validity transcends both time and space. It would be wrong in my view to try to use the reprehensible indiscretions of the few to cast a shadow on the Church as a whole. The Catholic Church remains committed to safeguarding children and all vulnerable people and to seeing that there is no hiding place for those who seek to do harm. It is therefore the Church and even the State's duty to work hand in hand to issue directives and enact legislation so that effective, transparent mechanisms are set-up together with harmonized and expeditious procedures in order to curb cases of abuse so that justice will not only be done but seen to be done.

Holy Father, we are proud as a nation to have inherited a Christian heritage which is at the core of our historical identity, even though we are not a confessional state. We too are experiencing, like all the rest of Europe, the phenomenon of multiculturalism, but this does not mean that we have to renounce to the beliefs which are our own. We still cherish a code of values, nourished by our Faith, such as the cardinal value of marriage and the family. We acknowledge that our Maltese family is undergoing rapid social changes and challenges, greatly influenced by current Western-world lifestyles and the ever-increasing secularization of the Maltese society. But the majority of our people still believe in monogamous marriage, based on the relationship between a man and a woman, open to the procreation of children, and consequently to the formation of a family as the bedrock of our nation.

We treasure the inviolability of the human person and affirm our full respect for human rights and uphold the principles of social justice by providing equal opportunities for all and ensuring that everybody has access to one's basic needs. We are against human trafficking and cherish the sanctity of human life from its conception to its natural end. We believe in the values of freedom, equality and solidarity, the fundamental principles of democracy and of the rule of law.

Being situated at the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta is exposed to and faces the burden of illegal immigration which is stretching our financial and human resources. In spite of these difficulties, we should however, never shrink back from our traditional values of solidarity and hospitality towards these migrants during their stay in Malta in full respect of their rights and human dignity.

We have made it our mission to work for peace and prosperity in our Mediterranean region and we refuse to countenance conflict between cultures and actively foster dialogue, including inter-faith dialogue, and understanding between peoples. I am sure I would be speaking for the majority of my countrymen when I say that in the Crucifix we see a symbol of our history, of our culture, and above all of our Faith. The face of the suffering Jesus on the Cross is the face of God who forgave his enemies while He was dying.

The great majority of our young people, although not immune to certain negative tendencies of the modern world, harbour positive values and are seriously dedicated to preparing themselves to be the good citizens of tomorrow. Our hopes for the future of our Nation depend on them. Tomorrow, Malta's youth will have the wonderful opportunity of meeting the Vicar of Christ in person to share their experiences with him and I know how a large number of them have been involved in preparations for this memorable and fruitful event which will enrich their lives for many years to come.

Holy Father, I am proud to say that all this forms part of our national identity and heritage. Your predecessor, the Venerable Pope John Paul II, during His visit in Malta on the 27th of May 1990 had exhorted us by proclaiming that:

"Malta is called to contribute to the spiritual unity of the old Continent by offering her treasures of Christian faith and values. Europe needs Malta's faithful witness too".

This is what we promise You today, that we continue upholding these values and our Faith which seemingly started off by mere chance but which we now cherish by our own choice as our firm belief.

In the meantime, Holy Father, rest assured that we are welcoming You, as the successor of St. Peter, with extraordinary hospitality, "bi tjubija liema b?ala" as our ancestors did with St. Paul.

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Our Lady of Taí Pinu
"Pray to Her Under the Title Queen of the Family"

FLORIANA, Malta, APRIL 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in Floriana's Granaries Square, on the second day of his apostolic trip to Malta.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When you give thanks, when you have particular prayer intentions, and when you seek heavenly protection for your loved ones, it is your custom to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother. I am aware of the particular devotion of the Maltese people to the Mother of God, expressed with great fervour to Our Lady of Taí Pinu and so I am pleased to have the opportunity to pray before her image, brought here specially from Gozo for this occasion.

I am also delighted to present a Golden Rose to her, as a sign of our shared filial affection for the Mother of God. I ask you in particular to pray to her under the title Queen of the Family, a title added to the Litany of Loreto by my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, himself on more than one occasion a visitor to these shores. In offering you this tangible memento of my own visit, I thank you for all that I have received from you in return, especially for the warmth of your devotion and the support of your prayers for my ministry as the Successor of Peter.

We turn now in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Heaven, as we rejoice in the Resurrection of the One whom she bore in her womb.

[The Pope then greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English he said:]

We join in prayer those gathered in Valladolid Cathedral, in Spain, where Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, a priest of the Society of Jesus, was beatified this morning. Let us give thanks to God for all the holy men and women he has given to his Church.

[In Italian, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome all the Italian speaking pilgrims present today on this joyful occasion, especially those that have come from Lampedusa and Linosa! Thank you for having come to share this moment of celebration and prayer with the Maltese brothers and sisters. May the Apostle Paul, whose anniversary of his presence on this island we commemorate, be an example of solid and courageous faith to you in all adversities.

Upon all of you and your families at home, I wholeheartedly invoke the abundant blessings of the Lord for a joyous and holy Paschal time.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Homily at Granaries Square
"Many Voices Try to Persuade Us to Put Aside Our Faith in God"

FLORIANA, Malta, APRIL 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the Sunday Mass he celebrated in Granaries Square, Floriana.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
Ma?bubin uliedi [My dear sons and daughters],

I am very glad to be here with all of you today before the beautiful church of Saint Publius to celebrate the great mystery of Godís love made manifest in the Holy Eucharist. At this time, the joy of the Easter season fills our hearts because we are celebrating Christís victory, the victory of life over sin and death. It is a joy which transforms our lives and fills us with hope in the fulfilment of Godís promises. Christ is risen, alleluia!

I greet the President of the Republic and Mrs Abela, the civil authorities of this beloved Nation, and all the people of Malta and Gozo. I thank Archbishop Cremona for his gracious words, and I also greet Bishop Grech and Bishop Depasquale, Archbishop Mercieca, Bishop Cauchi and the other bishops and priests present, as well as all the Christian faithful of the Church in Malta and Gozo. Since my arrival yesterday evening I have experienced the same kind of warm welcome which your ancestors gave the Apostle Paul in the year sixty.

Many travellers have disembarked here in the course of your history. The richness and variety of Maltese culture is a sign that your people have profited greatly from the exchange of gifts and hospitality with seafaring visitors. And it is a sign that you have known how to exercise discernment in drawing upon the best of what they had to offer.

I urge you to continue to do so. Not everything that todayís world proposes is worthy of acceptance by the people of Malta. Many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and his Church, and to choose for ourselves the values and beliefs by which to live. They tell us we have no need of God or the Church. If we are tempted to believe them, we should recall the incident in todayís Gospel, when the disciples, all of them experienced fishermen, toiled all night but failed to catch a single fish. Then, when Jesus appeared on the shore, he directed them to a catch so great that they could scarcely haul it in. Left to themselves, their efforts were fruitless; when Jesus stood alongside them, they netted a huge quantity of fish. My dear brothers and sisters, if we place our trust in the Lord and follow his teachings, we will always reap immense rewards.

Our first reading at Mass today is one that I know you love to hear, the account of Paulís shipwreck on the coast of Malta, and his warm reception by the people of these islands. Notice how the crew of the ship, in order to survive, were forced to throw overboard the cargo, the shipís tackle, even the wheat which was their only sustenance. Paul urged them to place their trust in God alone, while the ship was tossed to and fro upon the waves. We too must place our trust in him alone. It is tempting to think that todayís advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Only he can protect us from harm, only he can guide us through the storms of life, only he can bring us to a safe haven, as he did for Paul and his companions adrift off the coast of Malta. They did as Paul urged them to do, and so it was "that they all escaped safely to the land" (Acts 27:44).

More than any of the cargo we might carry with us Ė in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology Ė it is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfilment. And he calls us to a relationship of love. Notice the question that he put three times to Peter on the shore of the lake: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" On the basis of Peterís affirmative response, Jesus assigns him a task Ė the task of feeding his flock. Here we see the basis of all pastoral ministry in the Church. It is our love for the Lord that must inform every aspect of our preaching and teaching, our celebration of the sacraments, and our care for the people of God. It is our love for the Lord that moves us to love those whom he loves, and to accept gladly the task of communicating his love to those we serve. During our Lordís Passion, Peter denied him three times. Now, after the Resurrection, Jesus invites him three times to avow his love, in this way offering him healing and forgiveness and at the same time entrusting him with his mission. The miraculous catch of fish underlined the apostlesí dependence on God for the success of their earthly projects. The dialogue between Peter and Jesus underlined the need for divine mercy in order to heal their spiritual wounds, the wounds of sin. In every area of our lives we need the help of Godís grace. With him, we can do all things: without him we can do nothing.

We know from Saint Markís Gospel the signs that accompany those who put their faith in Jesus: they will pick up serpents and be unharmed, they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover (cf. Mk 16:18). These signs were immediately recognized by your forebears when Paul came among them. A viper attached itself to his hand, but he simply shook it off into the fire, and suffered no harm. He was taken to see the father of Publius, the protos of the island, and after praying and laying hands on him, Paul healed him of his fever. Of all the gifts brought to these shores in the course of your peopleís history, the gift brought by Paul was the greatest of all, and it is much to your credit that it was immediately accepted and treasured. G?oz.z.u l-fidi u l-valuri li takom l-Appostlu Missierkom San Pawl. [Preserve the faith and values transmitted to you by your father the Apostle Saint Paul]. Continue to explore the richness and depth of Paulís gift to you and be sure to hand it on not only to your children, but to all those you encounter today. No visitor to Malta could fail to be impressed by the devotion of your people, the vibrant faith manifested in your feast-day celebrations, the beauty of your churches and shrines. But that gift needs to be shared with others, it needs to be articulated. As Moses taught the people of Israel, the words of the Lord "shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise" (Deut 6:6-7). This was well understood by Maltaís first canonized Saint, Dun G.or? Preca. His tireless work of catechesis, inspiring young and old with a love for Christian doctrine and a deep devotion to the Incarnate Word of God, set an example that I urge you to maintain. Remember that the exchange of goods between these islands and the world outside is a two-way process. What you receive, evaluate with care, and what you have that is of value, be sure to share with others.

I would like to address a particular word to the priests present here, in this year devoted to a celebration of the great gift of the priesthood. Dun G.or? was a priest of remarkable humility, goodness, meekness and generosity, deeply devoted to prayer and with a passion for communicating the truths of the Gospel. Let him serve as a model and an inspiration for you, as you strive to fulfil the mission you have received to feed the Lordís flock. Remember, too, the question that the Risen Lord put three times to Peter: "Do you love me?" That is the question he asks each of you. Do you love him? Do you wish to serve him through the gift of your whole lives? Do you long to bring others to know and love him? With Peter, have the courage to answer, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you," and accept with grateful hearts the beautiful task that he has assigned you. The mission entrusted to priests is truly a service to joy, to Godís joy which longs to break into the world (cf. Homily, 24 April 2005).

As I look around me now at the great crowds gathered here in Floriana for our celebration of the Eucharist, I am reminded of the scene described in our second reading today, in which myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands united their voices in one great song of praise: "To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever and ever" (Rev 5:13). Continue to sing that song, in praise of the risen Lord and in thanksgiving for his manifold gifts. In the words of Saint Paul, Apostle of Malta, I conclude my words to you this morning: "L-im?abba tieg?i tkun mag?kom ilkoll fi Kristu G.esý" ["My love is with you all in Christ Jesus"] (1 Cor 16:24).

Ikun imfa??ar G.esý Kristu! [Praised be Jesus Christ!]

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Words to Maltese Youth
"Do Not Be Afraid to Be Intimate Friends of Christ"

VALLETTA, Malta, APRIL 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon greeting the youth of Malta at an encounter organized at the Valletta Waterfront today.

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Z.g?az.ag? Maltin u G?awdxin, jien kuntent ?afna li ninsab maghkom,

[Dear young people of Malta and Gozo, I am very happy to be with you,]

What a joy it is for me to be with you today on your native soil! On this significant anniversary, we thank God for sending the Apostle Paul to these islands, which were thus among the first to receive the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I warmly greet Archbishop Cremona, as well as Bishop Grech whom I thank for his kind words, and all the bishops, priests and religious who are here. Most especially, I greet you, young people of Malta and Gozo, and I thank you for speaking to me of the matters that concern you most deeply. I appreciate your desire to seek and find the truth, and to know what you must do to attain the fullness of life.

Saint Paul, as a young man, had an experience that changed him forever. As you know, he was once an enemy of the Church, and did all he could to destroy it. While he was travelling to Damascus, intending to hunt down any Christians he could find there, the Lord appeared to him in a vision. A blinding light shone around him and he heard a voice saying, "Why do you persecute me? Ö I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:4-5). Paul was completely overcome by this encounter with the Lord, and his whole life was transformed. He became a disciple, and went on to be a great apostle and missionary. Here in Malta, you have particular reason to give thanks for Paulís missionary labours, which spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean.

Every personal encounter with Jesus is an overwhelming experience of love. Previously, as Paul himself admits, he had "persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it" (Gal 1:13). But the hatred and anger expressed in those words was completely swept away by the power of Christís love. For the rest of his life, Paul had a burning desire to carry the news of that love to the ends of the earth.

Maybe some of you will say to me, Saint Paul is often severe in his writings. How can I say that he was spreading a message of love? My answer is this. God loves every one of us with a depth and intensity that we can hardly begin to imagine. And he knows us intimately, he knows all our strengths and all our faults. Because he loves us so much, he wants to purify us of our faults and build up our virtues so that we can have life in abundance. When he challenges us because something in our lives is displeasing to him, he is not rejecting us, but he is asking us to change and become more perfect. That is what he asked of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. God rejects no one. And the Church rejects no one. Yet in his great love, God challenges all of us to change and to become more perfect.

Saint John tells us that perfect love casts out fear (cf. 1 Jn 4:18). And so I say to all of you, "Do not be afraid!" How many times we hear those words in the Scriptures! They are addressed by the angel to Mary at the Annunciation, by Jesus to Peter when calling him to be a disciple, and by the angel to Paul on the eve of his shipwreck. To all of you who wish to follow Christ, as married couples, as parents, as priests, as religious, as lay faithful bringing the message of the Gospel to the world, I say, do not be afraid! You may well encounter opposition to the Gospel message. Todayís culture, like every culture, promotes ideas and values that are sometimes at variance with those lived and preached by our Lord Jesus Christ. Often they are presented with great persuasive power, reinforced by the media and by social pressure from groups hostile to the Christian faith. It is easy, when we are young and impressionable, to be swayed by our peers to accept ideas and values that we know are not what the Lord truly wants for us. That is why I say to you: do not be afraid, but rejoice in his love for you; trust him, answer his call to discipleship, and find nourishment and spiritual healing in the sacraments of the Church.

Here in Malta, you live in a society that is steeped in Christian faith and values. You should be proud that your country both defends the unborn and promotes stable family life by saying no to abortion and divorce. I urge you to maintain this courageous witness to the sanctity of life and the centrality of marriage and family life for a healthy society. In Malta and Gozo, families know how to value and care for their elderly and infirm members, and they welcome children as gifts from God. Other nations can learn from your Christian example. In the context of European society, Gospel values are once again becoming counter-cultural, just as they were at the time of Saint Paul.

In this Year for Priests, I ask you to be open to the possibility that the Lord may be calling some of you to give yourselves totally to the service of his people in the priesthood or the consecrated life. Your country has given many fine priests and religious to the Church. Be inspired by their example, and recognize the profound joy that comes from dedicating oneís life to spreading the message of Godís love for all people, without exception.

I have spoken already of the need to care for the very young, and for the elderly and infirm. Yet a Christian is called to bring the healing message of the Gospel to everyone. God loves every single person in this world, indeed he loves everyone who has ever lived throughout the history of the world. In the death and Resurrection of Jesus, which is made present whenever we celebrate the Mass, he offers life in abundance to all those people. As Christians we are called to manifest Godís all-inclusive love. So we should seek out the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized; we should have a special care for those who are in distress, those suffering from depression or anxiety; we should care for the disabled, and do all we can to promote their dignity and quality of life; we should be attentive to the needs of immigrants and asylum seekers in our midst; we should extend the hand of friendship to members of all faiths and none. That is the noble vocation of love and service that we have all received. Let it inspire you to dedicate your lives to following Christ. La tibz.g?ux tkunu ?bieb intimi taí Kristu. [Do not be afraid to be intimate friends of Christ.]

Dear young people, as I take my leave of you, I want you to know that I am close to you and I remember you and your families and friends in my prayers.

"Selluli g?az.-z.g?az.ag? Maltin u G?awdxin kollha." ["Give my greetings to all young people of Malta and Gozo."]

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pontiff's Parting Address to Malta
"Be Proud of Your Christian Vocation"

LUQA, Malta, APRIL 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today at Malta's International Airport before boarding a plane to return to Rome at the end of his 26-hour trip to Malta.

* * *

Mr President,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The time has come for me to bid farewell to Malta. I thank God for the opportunity to meet so many of you and to visit this beautiful island. I thank the President for his gracious words and I thank all of you who have given me such a warm and generous welcome. My journey has given me a deeper appreciation of how the Gospel preached by Saint Paul has shaped the spiritual identity of the Maltese people. As I leave you, 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.

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 Godís creation, with reverence for human life, and with high esteem for marriage and the integrity of the family! Kunu wlied denji taí San Pawl! [Be worthy sons and daughters of Saint Paul!]

On account of its geographical position in the heart of the Mediterranean, many immigrants arrive on Maltaís 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 endeavour, 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.

These noble goals depend on an unwavering dedication to the challenging task of 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. 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 Churchís social teaching will inspire and guide these efforts. Never allow your true identity to be compromised by indifferentism or relativism. May you always remain faithful to the teaching of Saint Paul, who exhorts you to "be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (1 Cor 16:13-14). Grazzi ?afna, il-Bambin iberikkom! [Many thanks and may God bless you!]

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Maltese President's Farewell to Pope
"Hope Has Been Renewed in Us and We Have Been Strengthened"
LUQA, Malta, APRIL 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address George Abela, president of Malta, delivered today at Malta's International Airport at the farewell ceremony that brought an end to Benedict XVI's two-day trip to the country.

* * *

Your Holiness,

The time has come for You to leave us but Your spirit will remain with us to continue nourishing our Faith for a long time to come. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us that when it was time for Paul and his companions to leave Malta, the inhabitants "paid us great honour and when we eventually set sail they brought us the provisions we needed". I have to say that, on this occasion, it is You, Holy Father -- who are leaving us -- that supplied us the provisions we need, the gifts which only our Pastor can bestow.

Your blessings have fortified our Faith, Your gentle manners and kind words have warmed our hearts, Your fatherly concern for our Youth has endeared You to them, Your inspired teaching has helped us all to understand better the beauty of Christian charity. Your presence among us and Your travelling through our parishes, as the Vicar of Christ and Successor of Peter, will continue to enrich our lives and hopefully make us better Christians and better citizens.

In Your homily this morning, You generously observed that: "No visitor to Malta could fail to be impressed by the devotion of your people, the vibrant faith manifested in your feast-day celebrations, the beauty of your churches and shrines. But that gift needs to be shared with others, it needs to be articulated."

Holy Father, I feel confident that Maltese Catholics will continue to openly and eloquently profess their Faith and the Christian values of charity and solidarity with all mankind and to endeavour 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.

Through the experience of Your Apostolic visit among us, hope has been renewed in us and we have been strengthened to face our future more securely even in our daily lives. As You teach so admirably in your second encyclical Spe Salvi : "Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey." And you explain to us: "To come to know God-the true God-means to receive hope."

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 and I wish to thank you for finding the time to personally address this delicate issue.

We trust, Holy Father, that You too will take with You happy memories of Your visit to the Island of Saint Paul and of its inhabitants and their Faith and of that hospitality which, we are proud, is recorded in Holy Scripture itself.

We, therefore, express our profound gratitude to You, ask for Your blessing and wish You a safe journey to the Eternal City. Berikna u l-vjagg it-tajjeb.

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On the Trip to Malta
"The Plan of the Love of God Is Even Greater Than the Storms"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

As you know, last Saturday and Sunday I undertook an apostolic journey to Malta, on which I would like to reflect briefly today. The occasion of the pastoral visit was the 1,950th anniversary of the Apostle Paul's shipwreck on the coasts of the Maltese archipelago and of his sojourn on those islands during almost three months. It is an event that occurred around the year 60 and which is recounted with abundant detail in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 27-28).

As happened to St. Paul, I also experienced the warm welcome of the Maltese -- truly extraordinary -- and because of this I express again my most heartfelt and cordial gratitude to the president of the republic, to the government and to the other state authorities, and I fraternally thank the bishops of the country, along with all those who collaborated in preparing this festive meeting between the Successor of Peter and the Maltese people. The history of these people for 2,000 years is inseparable from the Catholic faith, which characterizes its culture and traditions. It is said that in Malta there are 365 churches, "one for each day of the year," a visible sign of this profound faith!

It all began with that shipwreck: After drifting for 14 days, pushed by the winds, the vessel that transported the Apostle Paul and many other persons to Rome, ran aground on a sandbank of the Island of Malta. That is why, after the very cordial meeting with the president of the republic, in the capital Valletta -- which had the beautiful framework of the joyful greeting with so many boys and girls -- I went immediately on pilgrimage to the so-called Grotto of St. Paul, near Rabat, for an intense moment of prayer. There I was also able to greet a large group of Maltese missionaries.

To think of this small archipelago in the center of the Mediterranean, and how the seed of the Gospel arrived in it, 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. From that shipwreck, or better, from Paul's 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. This, naturally, is not always easy, nor is it taken for granted, but the Maltese know how to find in the Christian vision the answer to the new challenges. A sign of this, for example, is the fact of having kept firm their profound respect for unborn life and for the sacredness of marriage, choosing not to introduce abortion and divorce in the country's juridical system.

Hence, my journey had as its objective to confirm in the faith the Church that is in Malta, a very living reality, well ordered and present in the territory of Malta and Gozo. This community met in Floriana, in Granai Square, before the Church of St. Paul, where I celebrated Holy Mass, in which there was participation with great fervor. It was for me 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. After the celebration, I wished to meet with some victims of abuses on the part of members of the clergy. I shared with them their suffering and, overwhelmed, I prayed with them, assuring them of the Church's action.

If Malta gives the impression of a great family, one must not think that, because of its geographic conformation, it is a society "isolated" from the world. This is not so and one sees it, for example, in the contacts that Malta has with several countries and because of the fact that Maltese priests are in many nations. In fact, the families and parishes of Malta have been able to educate many young people in the sense of God and of the Church, so much so that many of them have responded generously to Jesus' call and have become presbyters. Among these, many have embraced the missionary commitment ad gentes, in far off lands, inheriting the apostolic spirit that impelled St. Paul to take the Gospel where it had not yet arrived. This is an aspect that I have stressed, namely, that "faith is strengthened when it is given to others" (Redemptoris Missio, 2). Malta has developed on the trunk of this faith and now opens to several economic, social and cultural realities, to which it offers a precious contribution.

Clearly Malta has often had to defend itself in the course of the centuries -- and this is seen by its fortifications. The strategic position of the small archipelago obviously attracted the attention of the different political and military powers. And yet, Malta's most profound vocation is the Christian vocation, that is, the universal vocation of peace! Malta's famous cross, which everyone associates with that nation, has waved many times in the midst of conflicts and struggles; but thank God, it has not lost its authentic and lasting meaning: It is the sign of love and reconciliation, and this is the true vocation of peoples who receive and embrace the Christian message!

A natural crossroads, Malta is at the center of migration routes: men and women, like St. Paul before them, arrive on the Maltese coasts, at times impelled by conditions of life that are too harsh, by violence and persecutions, and this entails, naturally, complex problems on the humanitarian, political and juridical plane, problems that have solutions but that are not easy, but which must be sought with perseverance and tenacity, coordinating interventions at the international level. It is good to do this in all the nations that have Christian values at the root of their constitutional charters and cultures.

The challenge to reconcile the lasting validity of the Gospel in today's complexity is fascinating for all, but especially for young people. In fact, the new generations perceive it more strongly, and that is why I wished, despite the brevity of my visit, that a meeting not be lacking in Malta with young people. This was a moment of intense and profound dialogue, made even more beautiful by the environment in which it took place -- the port of Valletta -- and by the enthusiasm of the young people. I could not fail to remind them of St. Paul's youthful experience: an extraordinary, unique experience and yet able to speak to the new generations of every age, by that radical transformation that followed the encounter with the Resurrected Christ. Therefore I saw the young people of Malta as the potential heirs of St. Paul's spiritual adventure, called, like him, to discover the beauty of the love of God that has been given to us in Jesus Christ; to embrace the mystery of the cross; to be victors precisely in the trials and tribulations, not to be afraid of the "storms" of life, or of shipwrecks, because the plan of the love of God is even greater than the storms and shipwrecks.

Dear friends, this, in synthesis, has been the message I took to Malta. However, as I pointed out, I have received much from that Church, from those people blessed by God, who have been able to collaborate effectively with his grace. Through the intercession of the Apostle Paul, of St. Gorg Preca, priest and first Maltese saint, and of the Virgin Mary, whom the faithful of Malta and Gozo venerate with such devotion, may they be able to progress always in peace and in prosperity.

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This past weekend I had the joy of visiting Malta for the nineteen hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Saint Paul's shipwreck and his three-month sojourn there. I am deeply grateful to the civil and Church authorities, and to all who received me so warmly. At the Grotto of Saint Paul I thanked God for the abundant fruits of faith, holiness and missionary zeal which the preaching of the Apostle has brought forth on those islands. The Christian vision, so deeply rooted in Maltese life and culture, continues to provide inspiration for meeting the great social and moral challenges of the present time. The vitality of the faith in Malta was evident in the joyful celebration of Mass before the Church of Saint Publius. As a natural crossroads, Malta has never been isolated or self-enclosed, nor has the Maltese cross, which I saw waving everywhere, ever lost its authentic meaning as a signs of love and reconciliation. The challenge of passing on the perennial wisdom and truth of the Gospel belongs in a particular way to the younger generation. At the port of Valletta, I challenged Malta's young people to look to Saint Paul's spiritual journey as a model for their own, to let their lives be changed by an encounter with the Risen Christ, and to trust that God's loving plan is more powerful than any storm or shipwreck along the way.

I welcome the newly-ordained deacons from the Pontifical Scots College, together with their family members and friends. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

I greet so many students of every order and degree, whom I thank for their numerous participation, with a particular thought for the Nazareth Institute of Rome, and I encourage them to persevere in the generous commitment of Christian witness in the school sector.

A special thought goes, finally, to the other young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Next Sunday, the fourth Sunday of the season of Easter, the Day of Prayer for Vocations will be celebrated. A hope that you, dear young people, will find in the dialogue with God your personal response to his plan of love; I invite you, dear sick, to offer your sufferings so that numerous and holy vocations will mature. And you, dear newlyweds, draw from daily prayer the strength to build a genuine Christian family.

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