Pope Francis Ends His Visit to Malta

On Sunday 3 April 2022, Pope Francis formally drew to a close his 36th apostolic visit which brought him to Malta. There have been many interesting points on which one can dwell.

When he visited the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Ta’ Pinu, in the sister Island of Gozo on Saturday afternoon, Pope Francis said that the Mother who had given birth to the Son of God mourned his death, even as darkness enveloped the world. Jesus too passed through difficult moments, especially at his crucifixion, when he prayed: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? He said that Jesus’ “hour” points to the new beginning much like the Ta’ Pinu’s basilica before which stood a small chapel which was in a state of despair. He said: From this sanctuary of Ta’ Pinu we can contemplate together the new beginning that took place in the “hour” of JesusThat little church became the national shrine, a destination for pilgrims and a source of new life.

But which hour? Pope Francis explained: That hour of salvation tells us that, in order to renew our faith and our common mission, we are called to return to the origins, to the nascent Church that we see beneath the cross in the persons of Mary and John. In other words, it means going back to our faith’s essentials. He said: Going back to the origins means, instead, recovering the spirit of the first Christian community, returning to the heart and rediscovering the core of the faith: our relationship with Jesus and the preaching of his Gospel to the whole world. Those are the essentials.

 In interesting comment on what makes authentic faith, Pope Francis said: A faith made up of received traditions, solemn celebrations, popular festivals and powerful and emotional moments cannot be enough; we need a faith built upon and constantly renewed in the personal encounter with Christ, in daily listening to his word, in active participation in the life of the Church and in authentic popular piety. That is why, a healthy faith is one which focuses on the friendship with Jesus as well as the Gospel preaching. He said:

To be a Church centered on witness, and not certain religious customs. To be a Church that seeks to go out to meet everyone with the burning lamp of the Gospel, not to be a closed circle. Do not be afraid to set out, as you have already done, on new paths, perhaps even risky paths, of evangelization and proclamation that change lives.

In his speech, Pope Francis alluded to the development of the art of welcoming. First of all, he said: Mutual welcome not out of pure formality but in the name of Christ, remains a perpetual challenge. Secondly, the Pope stated that welcome is also the litmus test for assessing to what extent the Church is truly evangelical. In this context, Pope Francis reminded Malta’s geographical position which demands this evangelical welcome. In fact, he said: Yours is a crucial geographical position, overlooking the Mediterranean; you are like a magnet and port of salvation for people buffeted by the tempests of life who, for various reasons, land on your shores.

In his beautiful homily at the Floriana Granaries, on Sunday 3 April 2022, Pope Francis encouraged those present to practice the art of mercy on Jesus’ merciful treatment of the woman who was caught in the adultery. He said: If we imitate him, we will not be inclined to focus on condemning sins, but on setting out with love in search of sinners. We will be content with those already present, but will go out in search of those absent. We will not go back to pointing fingers, but will start listening. We will not discard the despised, but view as first those whom others consider least. Brothers and sisters, this is what Jesus teaches us today by his example. Let us allow him to amaze us. Let us joyfully welcome the good news he brings.

In his meeting with migrants, with whom he prayed at the conclusion of his meeting at “John XXIII Peace Lab” Centre for Migrants in Hal Far, Pope Francis prayed: Make us instruments of peace and practical, fraternal love. Free us from fear and prejudice; enable us to share in their sufferings and to combat injustice together, for the growth of a world in which each person is respected in his or her inviolable dignity, the dignity that you, O Father, have granted us and your Son has consecrated forever. Amen.

 When visiting the Grotto of St Paul, at the Basilica of St Paul in Rabat, on April 3 2022, the Pope prayed: Good Father, 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. R/. Amen.

Before the Angelus address on the Floriana Granaries, Pope Francis said: I will bring back many memories of the events and conversations of these days. Above all, I will remember many of your faces, as well as the luminous face of Malta and the many kind gestures! I thank all those who worked so hard to prepare for this visit, and I cordially greet our brothers and sisters of the different Christian denominations and religions whom I have met in these days. I ask all of you to pray for me, as I will for you. Let us pray for one another.

Thank you Pope Francis! Pray for us and we certainly pray for you!

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.