Following in the footsteps of his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis in turn visited the Grotto of St. Paul in the city of Rabat (Malta) on Sunday, April 3. “Saved from shipwreck, St. Paul and his fellow travelers found here to welcome them pagans with a big heart, who treated them with a rare humanity, realizing that they needed shelter, safety and assistance,” said the Bishop of Rome in this cramped cave overlooked by a basilica.
His prayer, a burning call to light the “fire of welcome,” resonated strongly in the hearts of those present. Alongside the prayer, the Pope greeted people who were ill and in the care of Caritas, and religious leaders, gathered in St. Paul’s Basilica.
Prayer of His Holiness Pope Francis
God of mercy,
in your wondrous providence
you wished the Apostle Paul
to proclaim your love to the inhabitants of Malta,
who did not yet know you.
He preached your word to them
and he healed their infirmities.
Saved from shipwreck,
Saint Paul and his fellow travelers
found here to welcome them
pagan people of kindly heart,
who treated them with rare humanity,
recognizing that they were in need
of shelter, security and assistance.
No one knew their names,
their place of birth or their social status;
they knew only one thing:
that these were people in need of help.
There was no time for discussions,
for judgements, analyses and calculations:
it was the time to lend a helping hand:
they left their jobs, and did exactly that.
They lit a great fire,
to dry them and warm them.
They welcomed them with open hearts
And, together with Publius,
first in government and in mercy,
they gave them shelter.
grant us the grace of a kindly heart
that beats with love for our brothers and sisters.
Help us to recognize from afar those in need,
struggling amidst the waves of the sea,
dashed against the reefs of unknown shores.
Grant that our compassion
be more than empty words,
but instead light a bonfire of welcome,
that can dispel the memory of the tempest,
warm hearts and bring them together:
the fireplace of a house built upon rock,
the one family of your children,
sisters and brothers all.
You love them without distinction
and you desire that they may be one
with your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord,
through the power of the fire sent from heaven,
your Holy Spirit,
who burns away all enmity
and in the darkness of night lights the way
to your kingdom of love and peace.