Pope Francis has pleaded for a “European co-responsibility” in the Mediterranean so that this sea is not “the outpost of a tragic shipwreck of civilization,” in his first speech on Maltese territory, on April 2, 2022.
Speaking before the country’s civil authorities gathered at the Grand Master’s Palace, he also made a strong plea against corruption. Finally, the 85-year-old pontiff expressed concern that “the darkness of war” is returning to Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
After meeting with President George Vella and Prime Minister Robert Abela, the Pope spoke for the first time to emphasize “the typical Maltese sense of hospitality,” recalling that “according to Phoenician etymology, Malta means ‘safe harbor’.”
He acknowledged the feeling of insecurity caused by the influx of migrants, but he sought to broaden the perspective by explaining that this phenomenon “carries with it the debts of past injustices, exploitation, climate change, adventurous conflicts whose consequences we are paying for.”
The successor of Peter relied on the story of St. Paul, who was neither “a criminal” nor “a deity” as he had been perceived by the extremes of both sides. “Paul was a man who needed to be welcomed”, and today too, “fear and the story of the invasion” must not prevail with regard to those who cross the Mediterranean in search of salvation.
“The Mediterranean needs European co-responsibility, so that it becomes once again the theater of solidarity and not the outpost of a tragic shipwreck of civilization,” the Bishop of Rome insisted, recalling that the countries most exposed to migration should not suffer because of “the indifference of others.”
Away with the “darkness of war”
Without explicitly mentioning Ukraine, but in an obvious reference to the Russian offensive in that country, the Pope expressed concern that “the darkness of war” is returning from the East. “We thought that the invasions of other countries, the violent urban fighting and the atomic threats were dark memories of a distant past,” the pope acknowledged.
The Bishop of Rome noted with bitterness that “the icy wind of war, which brings only death, destruction and hatred, has come down with violence on the lives of many people.“
“Once again,” he lamented, “a few powerful people, sadly locked in their anachronistic pretensions of nationalistic interests, provoke and foment conflicts.” In the face of “the night of war that has fallen upon humanity,” the Pope asked the Maltese, with their “luminous witness,” not to let “the dream of peace fade away.
Referring also to the wars still going on in the Middle East, the Pope called for “Malta, the heart of the Mediterranean, to continue to give life to hope, to care for life, to accept others, to aspire to peace, with the help of God, whose name is peace.”
The fight against corruption: a political mobilization issue for youth
In this country shaken by corruption scandals and the 2017 murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Pope also called for “strengthening the foundations of common life, based on law and law.”
“Honesty, justice, a sense of duty and transparency are the essential pillars of a civilly advanced society,” he hammered, calling for “the eradication of brigandage and crime.”
He also placed the commitment against mafia abuses in an ecological perspective, calling for the preservation of Malta’s landscapes “from insatiable greed, greed for money and real estate speculation that jeopardize not only the landscape, but also the future.”
He called for linking the struggles for “environmental protection” and “social justice” as “excellent ways to enthuse young people about good politics, and to keep them away from the temptation of disinterest and disengagement.”
A warm welcome for the Pope in Malta
Unlike his recent trips to Greece and Cyprus, predominantly Orthodox countries, where a significant part of the population observed the Pope’s visit with perplexity, the Pope’s arrival in Malta was met with a real commitment from the population.
The streets decorated with Vatican posters and flags, and the large crowds on the road between the airport and the Grand Masters’ Palace, showed the popularity of the Pope in this small country where 85% of the population is Catholic.
After lunch, Pope Francis will reach the island of Gozo by catamaran, with a departure scheduled for 3:50 pm from the port of Valletta. His arrival at the port of Mgarr is scheduled for 5:00 pm, before a prayer meeting at the Ta’ Pinu National Shrine, Gozo, at 5.30 p.m. He will deliver a homily there.