Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful after a mass on the Granaries in Floriana, outside Valletta, April 18, 2010.
VATICAN RADIO (18 Apr 10 – RV) Granaries Square, is high on a hill, between the Maltese capital Valetta and neighbouring Floriana. On Sunday light rain carried by strong winds failed to dampen the high spirits of the Maltese people. They began arriving on the hill top before dawn, the elderly and the young, entire families, grandparents, parents and children. Young people climbed from the waterfront of Valetta port, to keep the crowds company in song as they waited for morning to come.
They waited patiently until shortly before 10 am local time, when an enormous cheer greeted the sight of the white pope mobile as it emerged from beneath the sandstone arches of the capital Valetta, winding its way through the tens of thousands, who transformed the cities streets into a carpet of yellow and white.
It came to a halt before the Church of St Publius, dedicated to the man who became the island nation’s first bishop. There Pope Benedict XVI vested in white and gold, and as the choir entoned Tu es Petrus, 700 concelebrating priests solemnly processed to the altar, announcing the beginning of Mass.
Beneath the simple white cross that adorned the wooden altar, the Archbishop of Malta, Paul Cremona, welcomed the Pope: “Today we are searching especially for a new evangelisation”. He said the Church had a mission of love to witness to its faith and the values inherent in it, especially the sanctity of life from the moment of conception; the dignity of every person and the importance of a stable family based on marriage.
Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful as he arrives to lead a mass at the Granaries in Floriana outside Valletta April 18, 2010.
Archbishop Cremona went on: “We know that in the light of these changing conditions we cannot just cling to the model of the Church to which we have been accustomed for decades”. “We have to return to the Church as it unfolds in the Acts of the Apostles: a Church which centres around the listening to and the sharing of the Word and the Eucharist”; “A Church humble enough to recognise the failures and sins in its members but strong enough to count on the presence of the Holy Spirit; a Church which does not seek privileges, but merely strives just to deliver the Good News of the Lord”.
In his homily Pope Benedict noted that “no visitor to Malta could fail to be impressed” by the people’s devotion. He spoke of the first Christian visitor to touch their shores, the Apostle to the Gentiles Paul, in the year 60 AD. Many have since disembarked, he continued, praising Malta’s discernment in knowing how to draw upon the best of what they have to offer:
“I urge you to continue to do so. Not everything that today’s 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”.
But reflecting on the First Reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the reading known as the Gospel of Malta, that recounts the Shipwreck of St Paul, Pope Benedict urged the faithful of Malta to follow Paul’s example and place their trust in the Lord:
“It is tempting to think that today’s advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so”.
Faithful wait for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI (not pictured) for a Pontifical Mass on the Granaries on April 18, 2010 in Floriana.
At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, said Pope Benedict only he can protect us from harm, only he can guide us through the storms of life. Then commenting on the Gospel of St John Chapter 21, he added : “More than any of the cargo we might carry with us – in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology – 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”.
In the dialogue between Jesus and Peter on the shore he said 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 Lord’s 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 apostles’ 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 God’s grace. With him, we can do all things: without him we can do nothing.
Pope Benedict concluded that Malta’s gift needs to be shared with others, it needs to be articulated. He said “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”.