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St John Paul II's 1st Apostolic Visit to Malta

25th - 27th May 1990

Pope St John Paul II was a pilgrim to Malta for the first time in 1990 on his 48th apostolic journey. He returned to Malta in 2001, at the end of his jubilee pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Paul.

Papa Giovanni Paolo II's schedule included:
Friday 25th May - Gathering with priests & religious in St John’s Co-Cathedral and a Meeting with the President of the Republic of Malta in La Valletta
Saturday 26th May - Greeting to the faithful gathered at the Marian Sanctuary of Mellieha, Holy Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Ta' Pinu on the island of Gozo, Fraternal Meeting with bishops, professors & students at the Major Seminar of Victoria, Visit to the Cathedral of Victoria and a Meeting with workers in Cottonera
Sunday 27th May - Meeting with representatives of Malta’s scientific, cultural and artistic life at St Julien Church in Sliema, Meeting with Maltese young people at the National Stadium of Ta'Qali in Rabat, Recital of the Regina Caeli in Rabat, Meeting with members of various Churches and ecclesial communities at the Cathedral of Mdina, Holy Mass for the faithful in Floriana and the Farewell ceremony

Pope John Paul II's words to Priests, Men & Women Religious of Malta
Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, La Valletta, Friday 25 May 1990 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"Peace be with you". This is my greeting and prayerful wish for you and for all the people of Malta. "Peace be with you, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (cf Eph 6, 23).

1. It is fitting that my first words on this visit to Malta should be spoken here in the magnificent St John’s Co-Cathedral, an eloquent witness to a part of your history that has made your name known throughout the world. As one called to a universal ministry of service in the Church, I rejoice at the opportunity to visit this island of Malta, the island of Saint Paul’s preaching, an island of faith, an island of heroism and devotion. Today I share the sentiments of Paul when he wrote: "Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us" (1 Thess 2, 8).

Guided by divine providence, I have come to confirm the ancient faith that the Apostle of the Nations brought here at the dawn of Christianity. I also come as a pilgrim, to experience at first hand the vitality of your local Churches, to pay homage to the past and present accomplishments of all those who have responded generously to the Gospel and have brought forth works of faith, hope and love for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. And as the Church in Malta awaits the third millennium, I wish to offer encouragement and hope for an even more glorious future.

2. Beloved friends in the Lord: the Catholic faith has grown and flourished here, thanks to generous men and women who in every age have put their lives at the service of Christ and his Church, "not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering... but being examples to the flock" (1 Pet 5, 2-3). I am happy that my first meeting is with you, the priests and religious, for you have an irreplaceable role to play in building up the Church so that all the members of Christ’s flock, from the greatest to the least, may attain the holiness of life which leads to salvation.

I am well aware that the Church in Malta is called to exercise her pastoral mission in a social and cultural situation which under certain aspects presents difficulties. In this context it is clear that the Church must be above all "the house of God" (cf 1 Tim 3, 15), in which his family dwells (cf Lumen Gentium, 6), and where the members of the family, while enjoying the rightful freedom of the children of God (cf Rom 8, 21), are united in the bonds of faith and love: "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est". I would encourage you, under the leadership of your Bishops, to continue along the path of authentic and profound renewal which the Holy Spirit, through the Second Vatican Council, has marked out for the whole People of God.

Furthermore, it cannot be denied that today your country is faced with ever increasing new problems. Your venerable traditions and your society are being subjected to the allurements of a secularized culture which has engulfed so much of the world. As men and women whose vocations have no meaning apart from God and his promises, you have no need to be afraid. It is by perseverance and fidelity in the face of challenges and trials that God’s power shines through human weakness. Never underestimate the hidden action of the Holy Spirit at work in human hearts to bring about the transformation, the metanoia, which lies at the core of the Gospel message (cf Mk 1, 15). I exhort you to hold fast to the strong faith which is your Catholic heritage as sons and daughters of Malta, so that the mighty deeds of God may continue to be manifested here both now and in the future.

Malta has been richly blessed with vocations and has been very generous in sending priests and religious abroad, to the great joy and gratitude of Catholic communities throughout the world. But there is also a need to be vigilant about the future. Do not be afraid to ask much of the young, to challenge them with a call to service and a way of life based on the radical demands of the Gospel. In order that your appeal may be effective, you must communicate it not only in words but also by an example that shows you to be committed, zealous, and joyful in the service of the Lord.

3. To all the priests of Malta I commend the words of Saint Peter: "Tend the flock of God that is your charge... And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory" (1 Pet 5, 2. 4). Can there be a greater honour than this: that Christ has called each one of you by name to share in his ministry and has entrusted to you a portion of his flock? Can there be any greater encouragement than this: to serve, to labour and even to suffer with Christ, so that together with all the faithful you can be partakers in the glory that is to be revealed? Yes, dear brothers, it is both to ministry and to glory that the chief Shepherd has called you as priests.

What a grace it is that your ministry in Malta is marked by a genuine closeness to your people! As you live and work among them in imitation of Christ who came "not to be served but to serve" (Mat 20, 28), strive always to develop a priestly heart, one that draws people to their ultimate, eternal good, to "the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col 3, 1). Be accessible to everyone, with respect and genuine fraternal concern. In your pastoral activity, "show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Iac. 2, 1). Each man and woman who knocks at your door, regardless of socio-economic status of political affiliations, should recognize in your words and actions the full truth of God offered in love and understanding. As "chosen from among men" (cf Heb 5, 1), and "set apart for the Gospel of God" (cf Rom 1, 1), you have a special responsibility to embody that "compassion" which Jesus showed to all around him (cf Mt 9, 36).

You know that your ministry as priests can never be lived as an exclusively private affair. The "presbyterium" should clearly reflect the communion which is the very nature of the Church, the one Body of Christ (cf 1 Cor 12, 12). The Conciliar Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests speaks of the "intimate sacramental brotherhood" that unites priests as members of a single body under the Diocesan Bishop in a "bond of charity, prayer and total cooperation" (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 8). Charity is required, lest we fail to practice among our brothers the very commandment of love we preach to others: a bond of prayer, so that no priest will be spiritually isolated in fulfilment of the ministry; and cooperation, for, as the same Decree tells us, "no priest is sufficiently equipped to carry out his own mission alone and as it were single-handed. He can do so only by joining forces with other priests, under the leadership of those who are the Church’s rulers" (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7). I urge you above all to be models of unity and harmony, so that the flock entrusted to you can likewise find inspiration to live in peace and work together as members of one family.

On the eve of the Synod of Bishops which will be devoted to the theme of priestly formation, I cannot fail to say something about your own continuing formation as priests. In order to grow as pastors, you will want to cultivate an ever deeper understanding of Scripture and the sacred sciences. As men of God you will also want to grow in grace through personal prayer and spiritual exercises, since it is only through the pursuit of holiness and intimacy with God that our knowledge and skills bear lasting fruit in the service of God’s people. I ask your prayers for the work of the Synod and for seminarians and priests everywhere, so that the Church may continue to be blessed with a worthy and zealous clergy as she seeks to preach the Gospel in today’s world.

Finally, I wish to encourage you to recognize and foster the proper role of the laity in the Church’s life, in accordance with the Council’s teachings, which have been further developed in the Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles Laici". There is a complementarity between the role proper to priests and the role of the laity. Whatever your priestly work in Malta today, you will want to increase and strengthen the cooperation that exists between yourselves and the laity, so that every member of the Church may make his or her rightful contribution to the spiritual and material well-being of all. This includes the various lay institutes, associations and movements, with their specific contribution to the Church’s presence and mission in society.

My dear brothers in the priesthood, be always conscious of the ecclesial task that is yours in Christ: to "gather together God’s family as a brotherhood all of one mind and lead them in the Spirit, through Christ, to God the Father" (Lumen Gentium, 28). May the Lord grant you perseverance in your "first enthusiasm", so that the whole People of God in Malta may benefit from your spiritual guidance and leadership, for a deepening of Christian life and a renewal of society from its roots.

4. Dear men and women religious: as I have said on many occasions, your greatest gift to the Church and the world consists above all in who you are. Your consecration is a powerful sign that in Christ humanity is called to be a new creation, to live no longer "in the flesh" but "in the Spirit" (cf Rom 8, 9). By freely and joyfully embracing chastity, poverty and obedience for the sake of the kingdom, you bear witness to the very "style" of life that the Son of God chose for himself on entering the world.

How much today’s world needs the faith which makes your consecration possible, the faith which the Letter to the Hebrews defines as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen"! (Heb 11, 1). Modern life makes it so easy for people to forget God, to make idols of pleasure, material possessions and the exercise of power, none of which can bring lasting happiness or give true meaning to life. You who have vowed yourself to the evangelical counsels testify to what is imperishable (cf 1 Cor 15, 50. 53). You show the world that it is by "losing one’s life" (cf Mt 16, 25), that one "finds it" in abundance, both now and in the world to come. You give expression to humanity’s transcendent vocation, which can only be achieved by walking the road of the Cross in company with Christ. This is the work of a lifetime, one which involves a constant dying and rising with Christ as you seek to be "perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5, 48). As you walk this road, do not grow weary or discouraged. Remember that God is faithful. Having called you to the religious life, he will not fail to supply all you need in order to persevere and grow in its demands.

In Malta, where men and women religious have made a magnificent contribution to evangelization over the centuries, it is my hope that while you remain firm in the charism proper to each Institute, you will actively and consciously build up the local Church through the exercise of your various apostolates. I urge you to develop cooperation to the utmost, so that each local Church can truly be one around its Bishop in the rich diversity of its life and work, and be — in the motto chosen for this visit — of one heart with the Pope!

I wish to say a special word to those who have been called to the contemplative life. Your constant prayer and sacrifice is the Church’s heart of love. That heart beats unseen but unceasingly for the redemption of sinners, for the sanctification of the just, and for the spread of the Gospel. In keeping with God’s ways, which are not always in line with our human way of thinking, your withdrawal from the things of this world increases rather that diminishes your influence upon them and becomes a source of boundless blessings for the whole human family. Through the hidden apostolic fruitfulness which the reality of your consecration imparts to Christ’s Mystical Body (cf Perfectae Caritatis, 7), your silent and cloistered life has a profound effect on the "earthly city" whose foundation must be laid "in the Lord" lest those who build labour in vain (cf Lumen Gentium, 46). May God grant the Church in Malta many more vocations to the contemplative life, and may he keep each one of you in his peace and joy.

5. To every Priest, Sister and Brother present here today and to all the clergy and religious of Malta I wish to express the gratitude of the Church for your service of the Gospel. Like St Paul who brought the Christian faith here so long ago, I "always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him" (2 Thes 1, 11-12). To all of you I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing."

St JPII's address to Mr Censu Tabone, President of the Republic of Malta
Grand Master's Palace, La Valletta - Friday,25 May 1990 - also in French, Italian & Spanish

"Mr President, Mr Prime Minister, Mr Speaker,
Honourable Members of Government, of Parliament and of the Judiciary,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to address you at the beginning of my Pastoral Visit to Malta. As the first Pope to set foot on these islands, I am conscious of the significance of my visit not only for the members of the Catholic Church but for the entire Maltese nation. At the dawn of the Christian era, your ancestors received the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Apostle Paul as he made his way to Rome. In the centuries that followed, the faith taught and professed in communion with the Successor of Peter took firm root in the life and culture of Malta’s people. It is my hope that the presence of the Bishop of Rome in your midst will recall the unique and lasting contribution which the Christian faith has made, and continues to make, in shaping your identity as a nation and fostering its growth.

I thank you most heartily, Mr President, for your kind words of welcome and for favouring the realization of this visit. I rejoice in this opportunity to pay homage to the faith of the Maltese people and to proclaim the Gospel and celebrate the Eucharist in communion with the Pastors and faithful of the Churches of Malta and Gozo. During my visit, I hope to encourage and support all those who, amid the challenges and opportunities of the present time, remain committed to the impressive heritage of Christian values which your nation has received from generations past and which remains the sure pledge of her continued development in the future. As the bearers of an ancient tradition of faith, Malta’s Catholics are increasingly required, on this eve of the third Christian millennium, to deepen their awareness of this tradition, applying its wisdom and insights to the task of building a modern society worthy in every way of their noble land.

2. In our time, there is a growing consensus that the social and political life of nations must be founded upon absolute respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each human person, regardless of race, religious beliefs or political opinions. In two world wars, as well as in the great changes which are now taking place in Central and Eastern Europe, we have seen entire peoples reject structures of power which effectively denied or betrayed their legitimate aspirations to live in a social order marked by freedom, justice and peace. As you are well aware, the task of establishing such a social order requires great patience, clear vision and moral maturity.

Above all else, it demands of each individual and social group a firm commitment to the pursuit of the common good. Also required is a forthright resolve to encourage respectful dialogue among all sectors of national life, while promoting laws and policies which safeguard the freedom and dignity of every citizen, with particular regard for the underprivileged and the most vulnerable, for the rights of families and those of workers. In the end, a nation’s commitment to these values will be gauged by its efforts to see them ensured through widespread participation in the democratic process, the fair administration of justice and the fostering of a strong sense of social solidarity.

I am confident that these values will continue to inspire the future development of your country. I likewise trust that the nation’s leaders — legislators, public officials, members of the judiciary and politicians — as well as private groups and individual citizens, will be vigilant so that these principles are never sacrificed to tendencies which may arise from the influx of ideas or patterns of behaviour alien to Malta’s Christian tradition.

3. Having always taken an active part in the life of the nation, the Catholic Church wishes to offer her proper contribution to the progress of the Maltese people. Drawing from her centuries-old experience of assisting both individuals and society, the Church in Malta is deeply aware of her obligation to interpret the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel and to respond to the opportunities and challenges of the present day in a manner consonant with her religious mission. As the Bishops at the Second Vatican Council had occasion to point out, the Church is motivated by no earthly ambition (cf Gaudium et Spes, 3), and "has no desire to become involved in the government of the temporal order"  (Ad Gentes, 12). Instead, she is committed to carry on Christ’s work by faithfully labouring for the salvation of all mankind and each individual, "considered whole and entire, with body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will " (GS, 3).

As she bears witness to the love of Jesus Christ, the Church strives to unite all people of good will in a spirit of mutual respect and effective solidarity (GS, 3). In her ministry, she "heals and elevates the dignity of the human person... consolidates society and endows the daily activity of men with a deeper sense and meaning " (GS 40). Indeed, by being faithful to her identity and proper mission, the Church is convinced that she "can contribute much to humanizing the family of man and its history through each of its members and its community as a whole " (GS, 40).

Consequently, it is in the interest of everyone that the Church in the first place, as well as all those who are genuinely concerned for the good of individuals and society, should strive to preserve the Church’s autonomy of action. It is important that the Church should enjoy freedom in the institutional and administrative spheres and that she should be free from all undue pressures, obstacles and manipulation. In a word, it is essential that the Church should be enabled to act effectively in fulfilling her mission to all people, showing herself to be what she truly is — the mother of all the baptized (cf Lumen Gentium, 64), and, in a certain sense, of all mankind. Following the indications of the Second Vatican Council, the Church, in solidarity with the entire human family, expresses her love for that family by entering into dialogue with it on all the problems that affect it (cf GS, 3).

In this regard, I cannot fail to note positive results from the continuing talks between the Maltese Government and the Holy See, the latter acting in close cooperation with Malta’s Bishops. So far, these talks have borne fruit in agreements which express and promote values which are an essential part of Malta’s historical, cultural and institutional patrimony, while also enabling the Church to continue to offer her contribution to that patrimony in full accordance with her distinct character and the requirements of her universal law. I am confident that in matters of common interest and with respect for the highest principles of freedom, justice and democracy, further agreements will soon be concluded.

4. Within the international community, Malta is widely respected for its initiatives aimed at strengthening understanding, cooperation, peace, and well-being among peoples. I am pleased to express also the Holy See’s appreciation for these initiatives.

The presence among us of the many diplomats accredited to the Republic of Malta reflects the high esteem which your nation enjoys within the international community. In thanking them for their kind presence both at my arrival and at this ceremony, I ask them to convey to their respective Heads of State, Governments and people my warm greetings and best wishes. Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps: it is my fervent hope that your efforts to promote harmonious and mutually beneficial relations between your nations and the Republic of Malta will make a lasting contribution to the security and progress both of the Mediterranean area and of the entire world.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I am deeply grateful for the kindness and hospitality with which you have welcomed me. As I continue my Pastoral Visit, I cordially invoke upon you and upon all the beloved people of Malta the abundant blessings of Almighty God."

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's greeting to the Faithful gathered at the Marian Sanctuary of Mellieha
La Valletta, Saturday 26th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet the parents and relatives of the priests, religious and laity of Malta engaged in pastoral work abroad. The dedicated response of so many of Malta’s sons and daughters to the Lord’s call is a cause for great rejoicing, and bears witness to the spiritual fruitfulness of the Christian faith which the Apostle Paul brought to these islands so long ago. In the name of the whole Church I thank each one of you for all you have done through your prayer, your encouragement and your own sacrifice to help these men and women to discern and embrace the will of God in their lives.

It is very fitting that we should come together in prayer at Mellieha, the oldest Marian Sanctuary on the island of Malta. At the Annunciation, the Virgin of Nazareth freely accepted God’s invitation to become the Mother of his Son (cf Lk 1, 38). After Our Lord’s Ascension into heaven, Mary was united with the Apostles in prayer as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised to send (cf Acts 1, 14). In the mysterious unfolding of God’s plan of salvation, we know that the Mother of Jesus has a privileged part to play. Trusting in her maternal love and protection, we do not hesitate to commend to her prayers the intentions of those who have followed Christ’s command to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel" (Mk 16, 15).

2. Dear friends: today’s gathering is an occasion for us to recall with gratitude the role of the Christian family in fostering the vocations of its members and in advancing the mission of the Church. The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the family can truly be called a "domestic Church" (cf Lumen Gentium, 11), since it reflects many aspects of the entire body of believers. As a community of faith, hope and love, the family ought to be, in a very special way, "a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates" (Paul VI Evangelii Nuntiandi, 71).

Can it be said that one of the reasons why your families have given so many missionaries to the Church is that you have a lively sense of your dignity and mission as baptized members of Christ’s Body, sent forth to bring the Gospel message to all whom you meet? Each Christian can apply to himself the words of St Paul: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9, 16). Even in a country like Malta, where the Catholic faith has flourished for centuries, there is a need in every generation for men and women who, amid the ordinary circumstances of daily life, make evident to their neighbours the mystery of God’s love as it has been revealed in Jesus Christ. May Christian families continue to bring the leaven of the Gospel to the whole of Maltese society!

3. The Apostle Peter urges us all to be "good stewards of God’s varied grace" (1 Pt 4, 10), using the gifts which we have received for one another’s benefit. As we recall the generosity with which Malta’s many missionaries have shared the faith which they had first received, we can truly thank God for the rich harvest which he has reaped through their witness. Today there are several hundred priests, religious and lay people from Malta who are bringing the light of Christ to Australia, North and South America, Africa, India and many parts of Europe. In addition, Maltese families who have emigrated are supplying vocations to their countries of adoption, while Maltese religious houses abroad are now receiving vocations from among the people they went forth to serve.

As we rejoice in their service of the Lord and his Church, let us never cease to assist these missionaries by our spiritual solidarity in prayer and works of penance. In particular, let us ask God to bless a hundredfold (cf Mk 10, 30) those of their number who endure all sorts of trials for the sake of the Gospel. And in union with Mary, let us pray that the Lord will raise up many others to follow them in the work of leading all people to the knowledge of the truth (cf 1 Tim 2, 4), so that "the glory of God which shines in the face of Jesus Christ might shed its light upon all men through the Holy Spirit" (Ad Gentes, 42). To all of you go my deep affection in the Lord and my special Apostolic Blessing."

St John Paul II's homily at Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady Ta' Pinu
Island of Gozo - Saturday 26th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. " My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord " (Lk 1, 46). These joyful words, drawn from the Responsorial Psalm of today’s liturgy, were first spoken by the Blessed Virgin Mary as she reflected upon the "great things" which God had done for her and for his Chosen People. How appropriate it is that the Church in Gozo should echo Mary’s song of praise at this Shrine of Our Lady Ta’ Pinu, as we celebrate the ancient faith of the Maltese and Gozitan people and rejoice in the bonds of ecclesial communion which have always united them to the Apostolic See!

At this, the first Mass which I celebrate since my arrival in Malta, I give thanks for the many blessings which God has bestowed upon the people of these islands from the time when the Apostle Paul first preached the Gospel among you. In greeting you all with affection in the Lord, I assure you of my prayer that Christ’s peace will always find a dwelling place in your hearts and in your homes. To Bishop Cauchi I express my gratitude for his words of welcome, which have given voice to the traditional faith of the Gozitan people, their deep love of this beautiful land, and their hope that the blessings of nature which God has destined for all mankind may be safeguarded for the benefit of future generations.

2. This morning, we celebrate our communion with the Church of every time and place, that Church of which the Blessed Virgin Mary stands out as the pre-eminent member (cf Lumen Gentium, 53). At this venerable Shrine of Our Lady Ta’ Pinu, we give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for the loving presence and protection of his Virgin Mother which the Church in Malta and Gozo has experienced throughout its history. For centuries, the faithful of these islands have drawn near to Mary in prayer and have sought her loving intercession to aid them in their needs and to comfort them in their distress. In calling Mary blessed among women, they have echoed the words of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation (cf Lk 1, 28), and fulfilled the prophecy which she herself uttered to her kinswoman Elizabeth: "From this day forward all generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1, 48).

In a very special way, Mary has been the patroness of the Christian families of Malta and Gozo as they have sought to fulfil their unique role in God’s plan for the salvation of the human race. We may be confident that with a mother’s love Mary has not failed to intercede for generations of parents and children, inspiring in them that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom (cf Ps 110 [109], 10) and accompanying them on their pilgrimage of faith.

Today, Malta’s families must still rely upon Mary’s motherly protection and care, as they face new challenges to the fulfilment of their vital mission to individuals and all society! In God’s plan, the family is where children learn what it means to be responsible individuals and members of a larger community, where they first encounter the virtues of unselfish love and self-sacrifice, and where they first come to understand the mystery of God’s love as it is expressed in the love of their parents. Since the family is the "first and vital cell of society" (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11), the spiritual health of its families will always be the fundamental measure of a society’s strength. May the families of Malta and Gozo never hesitate to look to Mary, the Mother of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Mother of all mankind in the order of grace (cf LG, 62), as a sure guide amid life’s challenges and trials!

3. In the Gospel of today’s Mass, we are invited to reflect on Mary’s maternal cooperation in the divine mission of her Son. St John tells us that at the wedding feast of Cana, when Jesus began his public ministry by turning the water into wine, he worked the miracle at the urging of his Mother, who was concerned for the needs of the guests. Meditating upon this passage of Scripture down the ages, the Church has come to understand that the confident words which Mary spoke to the servants — "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2, 5), are a mysterious indication of Mary’s unique maternal role in the entire economy of Christ’s grace. As a mother, "Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and suffering" (Redemptoris Mater, 21).  Out of loving concern for others, she brings all humanity’s needs within the radius of Christ’s salvific power.

Towards the end of John’s Gospel, Mary appears once again, this time standing at the foot of the Cross. What more powerful image could the Evangelist have given us of Mary’s profound spiritual union with the redemptive mission of her Son? When from the Cross Jesus says to the Beloved Disciple, "Behold your Mother!" (Jn 19, 27), he entrusts Mary to us, to each one of his disciples, to be our Mother too. At the foot of the Cross, Mary is fully revealed as Mother of the Church, Mater Ecclesiae, inviting each of us to trust in her prayers. Let us never hesitate to turn to her!

How often, in your families, do you feel powerless in the face of painful and apparently insoluble situations? How many people find it a constant struggle to forgive longstanding grudges, or to overcome deeply-rooted feelings of anger, hostility, jealousy or resentment? How many people desperately long for someone they love to abandon a way of life or a course of action which they know will only lead to frustration and unhappiness? And how frequently do our hearts go out to someone who is caught up in the toils of mental anguish or a bitter grief which knows no consolation? At moments like these, should we not trust in Mary’s loving intercession, confident that the most hopeless of human situations can be transformed by the saving power of Jesus, who in answer to her request turned water into wine, who died on the Cross that we might live forever?

4. Mary’s cooperation in the mystery of God’s plan as it unfolded in the Incarnation of her Son invites all Christian parents and children to think about their own vocation to be cooperators in the mystery of God’s grace at work within their families. Our faith teaches us that each human life, beginning at the moment of conception, is a gift from the Creator and endowed with an infinite value in his eyes. Our faith reminds us that all human beings have been created in God’s own image and likeness and given a vocation and destiny that will find their ultimate fulfilment beyond this earthly existence, in a communion of life and love with the Blessed Trinity. Faith also teaches us that we are united with all other members of the human race in a deep moral solidarity, that our actions and choices have consequences not only for ourselves but for others, and that we shall be judged by the measure of our love and concern for the least of our brothers and sisters.

Is it not in the life of their families that most people come to learn the magnificent truth which lies behind these profound affirmations of Christian faith? Unfortunately, it is easy for individuals and families to be so caught up in the many anxieties of daily life that they fail to stand back, put their lives in spiritual perspective, and rediscover the truth of their own vocation. How tragic this is, for without a spirit of prayer and meditation how can we discern God’s will for us, turn to Him in obedience and love, and thus experience the happiness and peace for which He created us?

For this reason, I encourage all of you to pray constantly (cf 1 Thess 5, 17), especially within your families, in humble thanksgiving for everything that God in his goodness has done for you. Ask him every day to help you to remain faithful to the vocation which He has given you in Christ! Do not be afraid to bring before him all your hopes, your needs and concerns. Parents, pray for your children, that they may grow in the new life which they received in Baptism. Children, pray for your parents, for you too have a part to play in making them holy (cf Gaudium et Spes, 48). Moreover, as members of a greater family, pray in union with Christ’s Body throughout the world for the needs of all humanity: for the sick and the oppressed, for the leaders of nations, for those who labour for justice and peace among peoples, and for those who promote responsible stewardship of the natural environment. Pray for all those who in any way give glory to God by humbly serving the needs of their brothers and sisters. And whether your work is at home, in the fields or at sea, in the factories or in Malta’s growing tourist industry, offer it to the Lord as a pleasing sacrifice in preparation for the coming of his kingdom!

In the past, Malta’s strong family life has provided a solid basis for the stability and harmonious development of society. In the present age can the families of Malta and Gozo continue to meet this urgent challenge? Like many societies, yours is not immune to a kind of spiritual disorientation caused by rapid social changes and the attraction of value systems and modes of behaviour which run counter to the deepest convictions which have moulded your identity as a people. Today, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Reconciliation and Queen of Peace, I ask all of you to pray with me that Malta’s families will be the crucible in which your society will forge a renewed commitment to the Gospel values which are its most precious inheritance from the past!

5. As "the Church journeys through time towards the consummation of the ages and goes to meet the Lord who comes... she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary, who ‘advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross’" (RM, 2). My brothers and sisters: As you seek to persevere in your own pilgrimage of faith, I commend your families to Mary’s maternal protection and prayers. May she, who "pondered in her heart" (Lk 2, 51) the mystery of God’s love as it was revealed in the life of her Son, guide parents and children to respond fully to the vocation which they have received as sons and daughters of God, redeemed by Christ and born again in the Holy Spirit (cf Jn 3, 5).

May she guide the Church’s pastors in their catechesis and ministry to young people and to those about to marry. And may she guide all those responsible in any way for the public welfare, that they may respect and support family life by wise and prudent legislation, rejecting as harmful to the good of society everything that would ignore or deny God’s plan for the family and lessen respect for the gift of human life.

As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist at this Sanctuary which the love and devotion of generations of Maltese Catholics have raised to Mary the Mother of God, may our voices be joined to hers as we praise God for the many graces which he has bestowed upon his people in Malta and Gozo:

"The Almighty has done great things for me!".
Yes, "the Almighty has done great things" among us!
He has done "great things" for all his people! Amen."

Discorso di Papa San Giovanni Paolo II durante l'Agape Fraterna con i Vescovi, i Professori e gli Alunni del Seminario Maggiore
Victoria, Malta - sabato, 26 maggio 1990 - only in Italian

"Non posso che felicitarmi e restare ammirato per le vocazioni a Malta, specialmente in questa diocesi di Gozo: tante vocazioni in una diocesi piccola. Questo dice a voi tutti, alla vostra comunità: il Signore ci invia nel mondo. In genere, le vocazioni sacerdotali non sono sufficienti. In alcune parti del mondo sono molto scarse: per esempio in America Latina, dove si conta un sacerdote per diecimila fedeli, nelle realtà più ottimistiche. Questo naturalmente crea difficoltà e crea anche un altro “appetito”: non quello della tavola, ma quello delle sette, che vogliono così conquistare il popolo non sufficientemente nutrito dall’Eucaristia e dalla Parola di Dio.

Allora, ringrazio la provvidenza e la grazia di Dio per questa abbondanza di vocazioni nella vostra Malta, e specialmente in questa diocesi di Gozo. Nello stesso tempo, auguro alla Chiesa universale, specialmente ad alcune Regioni di questa Chiesa, di potervi imitare. Non so quale soluzione sarebbe più opportuna: forse, appunto, prendere come criterio delle vocazioni quello dell’“appetito”. Cominciare dal “buon appetito” . . . Forse questi ragazzi, questi seminaristi, in America Latina e altrove, anche in Europa, non hanno un “buon appetito” sufficiente. Bisogna cambiare, bisogna migliorare il loro appetito . . . Allora, quando farò dopo un’altra visita ad un Paese dove la situazione delle vocazioni non è così fiorente, dirò quello che ho detto qui. Dirò al vescovo e agli altri: forse voi non prendete in considerazione sufficientemente questo criterio del “buon appetito”. Questa gente latinoamericana, o occidentale, europea, non ha un “buon appetito” sufficiente; allora, come può avere vocazioni?

Ma questo non è il criterio unico. Ci sono altri criteri più sublimi e più, direi, essenziali, sostanziali. Io penso che questi criteri sono presenti anche qui, a Malta, a Gozo, e sono i criteri della vita spirituale, della preghiera, della comunità cristiana, a cominciare dalla famiglia. Questi criteri portano avanti le vocazioni. Vi auguro che questo processo così positivo possa durare anche nelle future generazioni . . . Cercate di essere tutti vicini a Gesù."

St John Paul II's address to Priests, Religious & Lay People of Malta
Cathedral of Victoria, Saturday 26th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Dear Bishop Cauchi, Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Praised be Jesus Christ". It is with great joy that I repeat these words in your midst today, for it is in the name of Christ that I come to Malta as a pastor and pilgrim. To the Church in Gozo I bring the love and greetings of all God’s people throughout the world, for as members of Christ’s Body we all are united in a living bond of charity and peace; we all are one in praising Christ the Head through the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.

I am deeply grateful to Bishop Cauchi for his kind words of welcome, and to all of you for coming here today to be with the Pope in this magnificent Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. This Mother Church of Gozo and the other beautiful churches for which your diocese is known raise our minds and hearts to the eternal beauty that is God. They inspire prayer and contemplation of the mysteries of faith.

But without you – the People of God who form this local Church – without your living faith, these buildings, for all their beauty, would remain empty and lifeless. They are only outward signs of the far deeper reality which St Paul had in mind when he wrote: "You are God’s building" (1 Cor 3, 9); "You are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Eph 2, 19-22).

2. Dear friends, your presence here today expresses both the unity and the diversity of the spiritual temple that you are. The whole diocese is represented here: both clergy and people together with their Bishop. It is precisely out of a variety of ministries, charisms and states of life that you are "joined together" by the Holy Spirit in preaching the Gospel, professing the Creed, celebrating the sacraments, and in striving to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf Mt 5, 13-14). Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council teaches: "It has pleased God to make people holy and to save them, not merely as individuals without any mutual bonds, but by making them into a single people, a people which acknowledges him in truth and serves him in holiness" (Lumen Gentium, 9).

I give thanks today for the fidelity with which your local Church "acknowledges God and serves him" in the Catholic Faith. You can all be proud of your strong religious traditions, the large number of priests and religious, the many Catholic initiatives in the fields of education, charity and social services, the various lay movements, as well as the increasing lay involvement in diocesan and parish life. In all of these ways the Church in Gozo is "built into ... a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Eph 2, 22).

Saint Paul underlines that "upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets "Christians" grow into a holy temple in the Lord" (cf Eph 2, 20). Growth is the sign of life. As the spiritual heirs of those whom the great Apostle evangelized in Malta soon after the birth of Christianity, you must renew God’s spiritual temple through constant conversion as individuals and as a community in response to the challenges of today. Having been entrusted with the Good News of salvation, you will want to do everything possible to live it to the full, and to share it with others. This is the work of evangelization, the great mission which Christ entrusted to the first Apostles and which he now entrusts to you.

3. What does evangelization entail? In Gozo the task is not so much to bring the Gospel to people who have never heard of it, as to live the Gospel ever more perfectly and fully, so that the weak, the alienated and the sceptical may not turn from Christ but embrace him and his gift of salvation. In the words of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, the experience of intimate fellowship among church members like yourselves "only acquires its full meaning when it becomes a witness, when it evokes admiration and conversion, and when it becomes the preaching and proclamation of the Good News" (EN, 15).

Nor does evangelization come to an end even when a whole society has accepted Christianity. Without the "growth" of which Saint Paul speaks, religion can quickly be reduced to an empty tradition. In the words of our Lord and Master, a tree is known by its fruits (cf Lk 6, 44), and thus a truly Christian society will bear the good fruits of the Spirit, that is, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 5, 22-23), as well as compassion and mutual forgiveness (cf Col 3, 12-13). Although the practice of these virtues begins with individuals, the goal of evangelization is to weave them into the very fabric of society and social institutions: in the family, education, politics, the workplace, and in every sector of life.

4. Brothers and sisters, many of you already play an important part in your diocese and your parishes, and in society as well. You have responded generously to the needs of the Church in Gozo, and even abroad through the work of the missionaries whose relatives are here today. I offer a special greeting to these families and to all of you who further the Church’s life and mission by acting as extraordinary ministers of Communion to the sick, as members of parish councils, as members of associations engaged in various apostolates, and in many other ways too. I also wish to greet the priests present who, in cooperation with Bishop Cauchi, minister to the Lord’s flock, as loving shepherds and zealous leaders of the apostolate.

To all of you I offer an invitation to rededicate yourselves with fresh vigour to the great task of evangelization. I urge you to ask yourselves as individuals and as a local Church: how can the healing and ennobling power of the Gospel be brought to bear on life in Malta today? In what ways is Christ absent in the lives of individuals and in the life of society? What more can be done to christianize consciences and to bring the light of the Gospel to human and social problems, particularly for the benefit of the poor and the troubled? How can the gifts of the Spirit be made to shine forth ever more brightly within the Church as a beacon to others, especially the young?

It is by meeting these challenges that the true beauty of God’s house increases in your midst: the "holy temple into which you are built as a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (cf Eph 2, 21). Yes, dear friends, you are the "living stones" (cf 1 Pt 2, 5), of a spiritual building which exceeds in splendour anything that human art or ingenuity can devise. It is a masterpiece of the Holy Spirit, who invites your cooperation through words and deeds worthy of your Christian calling.

5. Upon each of you I invoke the Spirit’s gift of wisdom, so that you may discern ever more clearly the significance of your vocation and the obligations of your mission for the Church and the world today. With great affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and your loved ones, both near and far. "Praised be Jesus Christ"."

Papa St John Paul II's address to the Workers of Malta
Saint Margherita Square, Cottonera, Saturday 26th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I thank God for this opportunity to be with you. This meeting which the workers of Malta is one of the high points of my Pastoral Visit, and I have been looking forward to it as a moment of friendly dialogue with you, the men and women whose daily toil is the very life-blood of Maltese society. My wish would be to greet each of you individually. I ask you to take the Pope’s words of affection and encouragement to your loved ones, especially your children, and to your fellow-workers who could not be present.

I greet you all: those who work in agriculture, in industry including the many who work in the nearby shipyards in offices and in the tourist industry. I greet the representatives of the various trade unions and workers’ organizations, as well as the public officials and the members of the business community. To all of you I repeat the Church’s great esteem for the world of work. Work is a fundamental part of our life here on earth. It often involves heavy fatigue and even suffering, but it can also be the forge of strong character and vigorous personality, the means by which we build up the world according to the values in which we believe. For the Christian, work is our way of taking an active and responsible part in the marvellous work of the Creator which surrounds us everywhere and completely fills our being.

2. But why should the Pope talk about work? Perhaps some people may think that he has no right to do so; they think that work has little or nothing to do with religion. I might answer by saying that my own personal experience of work was one of the most interesting and formative periods of my life. I have expressed the richness of that experience in some of my writings. Today I have come to you, the workers of Malta, as a friend who shares the concerns and hopes of the men and women who in the words of the book of Genesis earn their bread by the sweat of their brow (Cfr. Gen. 3, 19). I have also come as the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, and therefore as a messenger of One who was known as a carpenter and the son of a carpenter (Cfr. Matth. 13, 55; Marc. 6, 3).

Yes, the world of work is not alien to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord understood perfectly the reality of human labour. His words were filled with references to workers and their various occupations: the farmer who plants the seed and the labourer who harvests the crop, the vinedresser and the shepherd, the one who mends the nets beside the sea, the builder and the domestic servant, the merchant and the housewife, the soldier and the State official. They all had a place in Jesus’ interest and teaching. And the Apostles he chose to carry on his redemptive mission were workers and fishermen.

3. In every age the Church continues to present Jesus’ teaching about work, and especially today when economic relations and production processes are complex and increasingly impersonal, and threaten to turn against man himself. The Church preaches a Social Doctrine because the great questions affecting society, not least the question of labour, have a powerful impact on people’s lives and cannot be separated from the moral and ethical responsibilities of everyone involved.

Unfortunately, it is the experience worldwide that the history of labour relations, especially during the last two centuries, has often developed as a social struggle between workers and employers. Only with great difficulty has the ideal of social justice made headway. Today, with the opening of so many previously closed frontiers and the determination of peoples to live in freedom from ideological oppression, it is becoming clearer that although the quest for justice can be opposed and delayed, it cannot be suppressed. It is a fundamental aspiration of the human spirit. Systems built on untruths about the spiritual nature of man and of human relations cannot last. The dignity of the human person is the only solid basis of a social system capable of giving the right direction to human relations, and of fostering mutual understanding, dialogue and cooperation. In an increasingly interdependent world, there can be no other way forward. In Malta, too, this is imperative.

4. Even though there are many kinds of work, in a sense all work shares the same nature. Its purpose is to transform and organize reality in a way that is useful and productive. Work is the implementation of God’s original command, recorded in the first pages of the Bible: " Fill the earth and subdue it " (Gen. 1, 28). Whether through physical, intellectual or spiritual effort, " each and every individual takes part in the giant process whereby man ‘subdues the earth’ through his work " (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Laborem Exercens, 4).

This is the beginning of what I call the "Gospel of work " which the Church wishes to transmit to the modern world. Whoever hears this " Gospel " and lives by it can no longer look upon labour as a mere commodity to be bartered in exchange for pay. In a wider and more noble view, work must also be seen as the path to self-development and as the normal means for people to create the conditions that permit a healthy cultural, social and religious life (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 67). Because the nature and organization of labour affects people so totally, Catholic Social Doctrine insists that the human person is the centre and norm of all economic processes. That is why the Second Vatican Council made this earnest appeal: "The entire process of productive work must be adapted to the needs of the person and to the requirements of his life, above all of his family life" (Ibid).

A change of priorities is needed in the world economic order if the reality of work is truly to serve people and not oppress them in new forms of slavery. This is especially evident in the condition of workers in the developing countries of the South, but also in the industrialized countries of the North. Maltese society too is called to strive for those changes which are necessary for promoting a development which embraces all sectors (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 21).

5. The "Gospel of work" holds that all honest labour, competently carried out, has an innate dignity and confers dignity on those engaged in it. That is why unemployment is such a deadly thing. It leaves its victims without adequate economic support, but more than that, it deprives them psychologically and socially. For that reason, I urge you: do not abandon the unemployed, especially young people seeking a livelihood. The unemployed and their families have a right to the effective solidarity of the State, of business interests and of workers’ organizations themselves.

Workers are the subjects of rights and duties. People who work, especially dependent workers, have a right to be treated for what they are: free and responsible men and women, called to have a share in the decisions that concern their lives. A society that seeks the true well-being of its members will make appropriate provision for family support. It will make it possible for mothers to give their primary attention to their children and homes, and, where necessary, it will provide for the special needs of working mothers. And particular classes of workers need the special attention and protection of society. Agricultural workers, for example, often feel that their contribution to society is not fully appreciated. The " Gospel of work ", then, preaches that economic, social and political systems must be sensitive to the complete well-being of individuals and to the needs of their families.

But workers and their organizations also have solemn duties towards the common good. The first of these duties is to work well, to contribute effectively to building a better society. This too is part of the " Gospel of work ", proclaimed two thousand years ago in the life and activity of Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnate Son of God. The value which Jesus placed on work during the long years of his hidden life was not lost on the early Christians. Saint Paul boasted of the fact that he worked day and night in order not to be a burden to others (Cfr. 2 Thess. 3, 8), and he summed up the spirituality of work in these words: " Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward " (Col. 3, 23-24).  These words are an invitation to integrity and competence on the part of everyone, workers and employers, people engaged at every level of economic and productive activity. At the same time, the Apostle is calling us to widen the horizon of human activity to include God’s plan for the world and for our eternal salvation. The world of work must not be seen as a part of reality somehow opposed to faith and religion, as if in conflict with God and his Church. Work can be a source of satisfaction and development, as well as of cultural and spiritual growth, only if society sees it as cooperation in the creative intention of God and respects each person’s unique dignity and higher aspirations, including the rights of conscience, as inalienable gifts of the Creator (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 35).

6. The outstanding virtue of the working men and women of Malta should be solidarity: a commitment to the common good; a rejection of selfishness and irresponsibility. We must become responsible for one another. What are needed are concrete acts of solidarity: between employers and employees, between working men and women themselves, with special sensitivity for the poor and the defenceless. In all of this, workers’ unions have a specific part to play. It is their task to defend the rights of their members through the legitimate means at their disposal, keeping also in mind the rights of other categories of workers, the general economic situation of the country and, in short, the common good. In the present state of technological progress and social development they are being challenged to adopt a broader view of their social function and responsibilities. Their great task is to harmonize the quest for material progress with the cultural and spiritual advancement of society. In other words, a great wave of social solidarity, not conflict, is the proper response to the increasingly interrelated and interdependent nature of today’s problems.

But solidarity, dialogue and cooperation must be built on a firm foundation. These values demand a "readiness, in the Gospel sense, to ‘lose oneself ’ for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to ‘serve him’ instead of oppressing him for one’s own advantage" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38). Thus the essence of the " Gospel of work " is also the heart of the Christian message itself. Jesus Christ sums up his teaching in these familiar words: " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, " You shall love your neighbour as yourself " (Matth. 22, 27). The first direction of work, then, is vertical towards God: your work itself is an unfolding of the Creator’s intention and a contribution to the realization in history of the divine plan (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 34). The second direction of work is horizontal: it is an effective way of putting into practice love of neighbour. Your work, insofar as it brings benefits of all kinds to society, is a magnificent form of service to others.

The task then which the Pope leaves to the workers of Malta is to integrate the world of work into the world of faith. There can be no separation between the traditions of Catholic faith, manifested at Sunday Mass, and the sense of commitment, honesty, justice and brotherhood shown in the workplace during the week.

7. Dear friends, it is in this spirit of the " Gospel of work ", which was proclaimed by Jesus Christ two thousand years ago and continues to be proclaimed by the Church in our day, that I invite you to:

Say No to injustice at every level of society!

Say No to the individual and class selfishness that seeks its own interests without concern for the common good of the whole of society!

Say No to the materialism that deadens conscience and the spiritual dimension of life!

Say Yes to a new solidarity between all the members of the work force, and between workers and employers, between the world of work and the whole population of Malta!

Say Yes to the full material and spiritual development of every inhabitant of these islands, with special provision for the poorest and neediest!

Say Yes to God’s plan for creation and to his Truth written in nature of all things and in the depths of the human heart!

The carpenter of Nazareth and the workers of Malta ought to be of one mind and one heart. Remember the words of the Scripture Reading we heard at the beginning of our meeting: "Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3, 17). In union with Jesus Christ, your work and your efforts to transform the world take on the quality of a sacrifice pleasing to God. By offering "what earth has given and human hands have made" you prepare the way for God’s kingdom. That is the deepest meaning of your labour.

Dear brothers and sisters, may Christ’s kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace, take possession of your hearts, for the true progress and prosperity of Malta. God bless you all."

Pope St John Paul II's address to Representatives of Malta's Scientific, Cultural & Artistic Life
St Julien Church, Sliema, Sunday 27th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is for me a great pleasure to find myself among the esteemed representatives of Malta’s scientific, cultural and artistic life. Our meeting is a recognition of the importance which we all attach to learning, to the search for knowledge, to intellectual exchange and artistic achievement, to the sublime values of Truth and Beauty in mankind’s arduous but also exciting quest for genuine human advancement.

"What man can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord?" (Sap. 9, 13).

These words of the Book of Wisdom which introduced our conversation this morning encourage us to dwell for a moment on the present conditions of our culture and civilization. At a time of wide-ranging ideological and political transformations, of dangerous imbalances in the world economy, of new but not always comforting advances in science and technology, we are confronted with a burning issue which looms high on the horizon of the approaching new millennium. For societies threatened by insecurity, by instances of dramatic environmental degradation, by endemic unemployment, by political uncertainty, the pervading question which the future poses is this: what is to become of the human person?

Politicians and magistrates, engineers and lawyers, researchers and doctors, artists, educators, social workers and students: you all perceive a disquiet sometimes vague but ever present in your inmost consciousness. The question is being brought into ever sharper focus by the important events we are experiencing and the unknown elements of the months and years ahead. No one who claims to look critically at events can fail to feel a deep personal involvement. Why? Because, as this century and this millennium come to a close, what is at stake is the very meaning and direction of the human family’s pilgrimage through history.

2. You who are the intellectual and cultural elite of society are involved in a special way. The future depends to a great extent on the cultural perspective in which individuals and peoples are allowed to develop and work out their destiny. Recent history has drastically altered the cultural frame of reference. In particular, the series of events in Europe during the last few months shows clearly the inadequacy and failure of a culture which was not built on the primacy of the spiritual dimension of the human person.

Naturally the economic, political and social aspects of life require careful attention and forthright commitment on the part of all. But at the same time it is necessary to reaffirm adamantly the primacy of ethics over technology, the primacy of "being" over "having". This is especially imperative when we are immersed in a false culture of "appearances", the result of an unbridled consumer mentality detrimental to the deepest needs of individuals and communities. The present challenge facing Europe is to rediscover its own deepest roots. In accepting this challenge, European culture is forcefully called to account for the Christian faith that gave form to its peoples.

3. Dear friends, the principal task of those with responsibility for the lives of individuals and nations is to foster a way of life that fully responds to the unique and inalienable dignity of human beings. The task is enormous. It involves working for the full and genuine development of peoples in a climate of effective cooperation, for the defence of human rights, the promotion of family life, the protection of workers, the building of a more just and fraternal community, with respect for the Creator’s will in nature and in all areas of life.

Rediscovered freedom is leading peoples long condemned to silence, fear and want to proclaim aloud the value of the human person, the spiritual character of life, the need to express individual worth and personal responsibility by taking part actively in the processes determining civic and national life.

Men and women of culture that you are, you know that the restoration of external freedoms is only the first stage, the first step. The exercise of freedom must be accompanied by a growth in moral and spiritual maturity. Unfortunately, as we approach the third Christian millennium our dominant culture shows signs of a weakening of moral commitment and a narrow sense of spiritual inspiration. People are often more sensitive to feelings, emotions and impressions than to thought, reflection and discernment. To act without reason is not worthy of man, whose freedom is based on knowledge of the truth which enlightens his judgement.

The conquest of authentic freedom is radically jeopardized if truth, painstakingly acquired through reason and wonderfully deepened through openness to the word of God, is disregarded. Without reference to the truth, human beings can never free themselves from irresponsibility and fear. Jesus Christ stated quite plainly: " the truth shall make you free " (Cfr. Io. 8, 32). What applies to individuals applies also to nations. It is in accepting the full truth about our human condition– which corresponds to God’s design for human beings, revealed in Christ, the way, the truth and the life (Cfr. Ibid. 14, 16) – that our contemporaries will reach their full stature as men and women freed from fear and vain illusions.

4. Malta is not unaffected by the problems and changes transforming the cultural as well as the political face of Europe and the world. Because of its geographical position and history, Malta presents a marvellous symbiosis of European and Mediterranean cultures and is thus well placed to observe and participate in the present changes of outlook. Being at the crossroads of fruitful exchanges between various civilizations, Malta has remained faithful to her traditions of hospitality, as shown recently by the meeting here between the United States and Soviet Heads of State. The Christian faith that came to you two thousand years ago has deeply imbued your family life, your traditions, and almost every manifestation of your character.

However, the decline of traditional values on the one hand and of ideological tensions on the other has left many of our contemporaries defenceless, disorientated, and in many cases with a dramatic crisis of identity. You who are among the leaders of the cultural life of your country cannot remain deaf to those who cry out in anguish in their quest for meaning and certainty. That would be to betray their expectations, especially in the case of young people on the threshold of adult life.

The extent and novelty of the problems affecting the evolution of society must not cause you to ignore your fellow-citizens, your brothers and sisters, considered in their real existence and not in the light of abstract ideological concepts. It is to real people in their actual condition that the Creator addresses the call to live in the fullness of dignity and freedom. Your mission, I repeat, is immense. It is no less than an untiring effort to seek and uphold the truth about man’s life and destiny.

5. As Catholics you have an authentic vocation to evangelize the cultural environment in which you live and work. This task springs from your baptismal commitment. It has nothing to do with imposing a preconceived and unilateral model of cultural life. Rather, it concerns the "recognition and possible purification of the elements that critically burden existing culture... and the elevation of these cultures through the riches which have their source in the Gospel and the Christian faith" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici, 44). Your active presence as Catholic lay men and women in the world of scientific, intellectual and artistic endeavour is needed, both as individuals and as members of the various cultural and apostolic associations which permit you to work more effectively for the progress of your people. Your activities in this field should be marked by courage and intellectual creativity, and above all by a profound sense of love and service.

As men and women of faith you consider the mystery of human life in relation to the mystery of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. In him our human condition is raised and brought into a dynamic personal communion with the Creator. In the Incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in a certain way with every human person. He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 22). Through the sending of his Spirit and the life of grace Christ renews people from within, making them capable of fulfilling the new commandment of love which is to characterize the new humanity born from his Cross and Resurrection. It is in the construction of this civilization of love that your cultural endeavours and achievements reach their highest value and have their most beneficial effect on society. In following this path you know that your efforts call for a sharing in the wisdom which God alone can give. May you make your own the prayer in the Scripture Reading we listened to at the beginning of this meeting:

"Send wisdom forth from your throne of glory
to help me and toil with me
and teach me what is pleasing to you" (Sap. 9, 10)

6. Theologians, philosophers, specialists in the natural and human sciences, teachers and researchers, together with your students: you constitute a highly qualified community dedicated to intellectual endeavour, with a sublime mission of service to the wider Maltese society. I earnestly hope that you will always be motivated by a sincere passion for the truth and a profound love of your fellow human beings.

You who are heirs to an ancient heritage, lift your eyes to the full breadth of the surrounding Mediterranean and to the peoples inhabiting its shores. The challenge before you is to radiate an example.

May your love of freedom, your love of truth, your love of justice make these Islands, set in the heart of the Mediterranean, a sanctuary of peace and brotherhood, steeped in the truth and love which Christ, the Redeemer of Man, came to bring.

Upon all of you and on your families I invoke Almighty God’s abundant gifts, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing."

Papa San Juan Pablo II's talk to the Young People of Malta
National Stadium of Ta'Qali, Rabat, Sunday 27th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Dear Young People of Malta,
Kuntent li qieghed fostkom. I am happy to be with you.

1. Si, Kuntent, Kuntent. I find the questions you put before me, through your representatives, are very kind, very positive and constructive. So, I am happy to be with you, and I shall try to give an answer to your questions.

I greet you all with great affection in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our gathering this morning is a wonderful gift of God to you and to me! In a certain sense, the Pope has come to Malta to challenge you with the very words we heard in the Scripture passage from the First Letter of Saint John. Are you "strong"? Does the "word of God abide in you"? Have you "overcome the evil one" (cf 1 Jn 2, 14)? In the measure of that victory, your youth, your enthusiasm and your faith are a sign of great hope for the Church and for society.

As I listened to your kind words of welcome I could sense your desire to live according to God’s will and to take an ever more active part in the life of the Church in your country. You have also shared with me some of the hard questions which confront you and the difficulties which you experience in obeying the demands of the Christian life. In the time which we have together, I hope to give you some thoughts which come from my heart and are inspired by the faith which unites us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

2. More than one of your questions concerned the difficulty of doing what you know is God's will in the face of pressure from your peers and from certain trends in today’s society. I understand what you are saying. Sometimes, in answering God’s call, we do experience a kind of fear; we hesitate since we realize that obedience to God makes heavy demands on us. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we feel "greatly distressed and troubled" (Mk 14, 33), as we discover the immediate cost of obedience to the will of the Father. Our proud nature rebels against the thought of having to account for our lives and actions.

Yet, the idea of being accountable, of being personally responsible for the use of all the gifts that God has given to each one of us, is central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You remember the story of the talents in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (cf Mt 25, 14-30). The master returned to settle the accounts with his stewards. To those who had been good administrators of his possessions he said: "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master" (Mt 25, 21). But to the one who had done nothing to make his talent bear fruit, he said: "Take the talent from him... For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Mt 25, 28-29).

Here the Lord is teaching a law that is at the heart of the Gospel message; something that young people everywhere easily understand.

Unless there is a deep commitment in life to what is true and good, unless there is a willingness to pay the price of victory, unless there is a determination to conquer self and really be helpful to others, life itself slips away in lack of direction and meaning. The great hopes of your youth may eventually disappear and die unless they are quickly translated into action, in other words, unless "you are strong" (cf 1 Jn 2, 14).

3. On all sides we see young people full of the desire to make this world a better place, a kinder and more just place where all can find their home. These ideals are the fresh air that society desperately needs in order to renew itself continuously. But you yourselves know how strongly young people can also be absorbed by passing trends and short-lived goals; how they can be taken in by the promise of immediate happiness in irresponsible sexual behaviour, in drug addiction and alcohol, in the frivolous search for material things.

On the other hand, the programme of life that Jesus Christ offers leads to an authentic joy, a deep and lasting joy, a happiness that is rooted in the depths of the heart and lasts forever. You know that the joy of Easter, that joy which made the first disciples’ hearts burn within them (cf Lk 24, 32), does not come cheap. Christian joy involves accepting the mystery of the Cross. Did not Jesus teach us by his own example that only by losing our life do we find it? (cf Mt 10, 39).

Did he not say that the grain of wheat must fall to the earth and die if it is to bear fruit? (cf Jn 12, 24). This is the Gospel law of life which Jesus presents once more to the youth of Malta. Are you strong enough to reject the false prophets and the merchants of death who have already made so many young people around the world think that there is no hope, nothing worth living for, no better world to work for even at great personal cost?

You asked me about temptations. All temptations are based on a lie, and are opposed to the truth which comes from God. They inevitably lead to disillusionment. As in the case of our first parents, temptation tries to make us believe that something other than God’s will can succeed in making us truly happy. Very often too, temptation is not a desire to do something that we know is wrong but to hold back from doing something we know is right, because we fear that we will not find the strength to follow it through. Again, the programme of life presented by Jesus involves a continuing struggle against temptation. There is nothing strange in this, and there is no need to be afraid: in Christ "you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (1 Jn 2, 14).

So, answering Jesus’ call to follow him involves a life-long process of conversion. For most of you, conversion of mind and heart to Christ is more a matter of everyday decisions than the result of a sudden and emotion-filled moment. At the same time, certain decisions are very important, as for example when you decide to turn away from a pattern of behaviour that you know is sinful and destructive, or when you discern to which state in life God may be calling you: marriage, the priesthood or one of the many forms of consecrated life. But every decision you make, whether great or small, always remains an opportunity either to draw closer to God or to distance yourselves from him and from the truth which alone can set you free (cf Jn 8, 32).

4. One of you has asked about difficult moments in my own life and what I learned from them. A very personal question! During the Second World War, at that time, you were not in this world, you were not yet the young citizens of this beautiful land of Malta. But the Second World War is a historical event, and some of us, myself also, have the experience of when my country was occupied, oppressed. It was not easy to work day after day in difficult circumstances. It was not easy to study at the university. It was not easy to see suffering and injustice on such a worldwide scale, and at the same time to continue to live the virtue of hope, trusting God and trusting other people. It was not easy to make room for the voice of the Lord calling me to a total self-giving in the priesthood and to study in secret under all kinds of limitations in preparation for that consecration. But no true vocation is easy!

What I learned in those and other "hard" moments was to judge all things in the light of Christ: the way, the truth and the life of every individual and of all peoples (cf Jn 14, 6). The great Saint Paul warns us that there is only one proper foundation on which to build – Jesus Christ – and each one of us must take care how we build on that foundation (cf 1 Cor 3, 10-11). Christ is the "bridegroom" (cf Jn 3, 29), the "friend" (cf Jn 15, 14), the "companion" on the road of life, the one who fills our hearts with the same joy as he gave the disciples on the road to Emmaus! (cf Lk 24, 13-35). He is our "bread" (cf Jn 6, 35), our "peace" (cf Eph 2, 14), the one who takes our burdens on himself and refreshes us in our fatigue (cf Mt 11, 28-30). And let us not forget, from the height of his Cross he gave us his own Mother to be our Mother (cf Jn 19, 27), to comfort us and guide us in every trial and challenge. No, young people of Malta, you are never alone when you strive to do God’s will and obey his commandments (cf Jn 14, 21). When you experience doubts or difficulties, never be afraid to approach the Lord as he makes himself present to you in prayer and in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. There you will not only find his loving forgiveness but you will also receive the strength you need to persevere in joyfully doing his will.

Giving Christ first place in your lives, however, not only involves a conversion of the heart; it also involves a continuous conversion of the mind. As disciples, you are called to judge all things in the light of Christ. At every moment of your lives, in every decision you make, you must ask yourselves: "Does my way of thinking and acting correspond to the mind of Christ?" It is important to remember this as you debate ideas and values which are common enough in modern society but which may well be in contrast with the liberating truth about man as we have learned it from Christ. For the authentic Christian, the Gospel is the criterion of every decision and every action. In a word, everything must be judged by God’s standards, not by those of man (cf Mk 8, 33).

5. You have shared with me some of the hurt which you feel at the divisiveness and hostility you see around you. You clearly recognize that these attitudes are contrary to the Gospel and, when they are tolerated or encouraged by those who profess to be followers of Christ, the credibility of the Gospel itself is compromised. Here too you must be strong. Each of you is called to spread Christ’s reconciling love to those around you. The building of peace between individuals or within social groups requires great patience, respect for the convictions of others, and a sincere attempt to engage in a constructive dialogue aimed at discerning the truth and working together for the good of each other and all society.

The greatest contribution which you can make to healing the wounds of division, wherever they may be found, will come from your commitment to act with a mature Christian conscience. You must judge all things in the light of your faith in Christ. Realize that Christ has set you free! You are not bound by the mistakes, grudges and biases inherited from the past. God has given you the youth, the energy and the idealism to create new models of cooperation. Do not be afraid to use these gifts, and to apply your faith to each one of your relationships, to family life, to your work, to your involvement in society, to every area of your life! At home, at school and at work, be artisans of a new solidarity, one rooted in the generous Christianity which is Malta’s most precious inheritance from past generations!

Before coming to the conclusion, I shall repeat that you really asked me very kind questions. I shall say you found the questions in the Gospel, in the same source in which I am finding the answers.
Now during the introductory speech your representative maybe also gave half of my speech. He did my work.

6. Dear young people of Malta: I leave you with the assurance that you have a very special place in the Church of Christ as she strives to fulfil the mission of reconciliation and salvation which she received from the Lord. By receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist, you have become full members of the Church. You share fully in her mission of sanctifying the world and imbuing all temporal realities with the spirit of Christ (cf Lumen Gentium, 31).

The Church needs you. She needs each of you individually, but she also needs the testimony of your parish communities, your associations and movements. She needs you to bear witness to the holiness, the justice, the loving service of the poor and the needy which are the mark of Christ’s true disciples. The Church needs you to be imbued with the spirit of Christ, strong in your commitment to building his kingdom. Today the Pope makes this appeal to you: never be afraid to give yourselves fully to God as you strive to live out the vocation he has given you in Christ! Never lose hope in God’s power to sustain you along the way, even when situations seem most hopeless! Be strong and overcome the evil one! Let the word of God abide in you! (cf 1 Jn 2, 14). I am confident that from your generosity and youthful enthusiasm the Lord will bring forth rich fruits for the life of the Church and for the good of Malta.

I repeat my great affection to all of you, to every one of you, to the young people, and I commend you all to the loving prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a time when she, Mother of Christ, is praying with the apostles waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, for Pentecost. She is praying also with us; she is praying with you, and to these loving prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary I commend all of you."

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Regina Caeli
St Paul's Church, Rabat, Sunday 27th May 1990 - also in Italian & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. The sick are a very special part of Christ’s Body, the Church. This morning I am pleased to meet some representatives of the people in Malta and Gozo who are elderly or suffering from various forms of illness. In greeting you, I make my own the beautiful words which we find in the First Letter of Peter: "Rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed" (1Petr. 4, 13). Let us indeed praise Almighty God for the many ways in which he strengthens us in hope and gives us his consolation, even amid the trials and sufferings that accompany our life here on earth. The Church’s concern for the sick derives from the example of Jesus himself, who in preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom went about "healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Matth. 4, 23). By his many miracles, Jesus showed how close God is to each of us, and how great is his power to bring healing and salvation to those who call upon him in faith. In every age, the Church seeks to carry on Christ’s saving mission by caring for the physical and spiritual needs of the infirm. She knows that God’s grace is made perfect in weakness, and that in her suffering members the saving power of Christ’s Cross is mysteriously present and effective.

2. Not far from us is the Grotto where, according to a venerable popular tradition, Saint Paul lived during his stay in Malta. As you know, Saint Paul rejoiced in the many sufferings he endured for the Gospel. He understood that only by suffering with Christ do we come to share in the power of his Resurrection (Cfr. Phil. 3, 10-11).

Our Catholic faith teaches that in the communion of saints the members of the Church are united with each other in a profound spiritual solidarity. Our prayers, our sufferings and our joys affect others in ways that are known fully to God alone. Through the life of grace, each of us is given an opportunity to cooperate with Jesus in bringing the saving power of his Cross to bear on the needs of our brothers and sisters. As Paul himself put it, we can "complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, ...the Church" (Col. 1, 24).  When people are sick, or burdened by troubles, they are often tempted to think only of their own problems. But faith invites us to look deeper, and to see the immense good that we can do for our neighbour by offering our sufferings in union with Jesus as a pleasing sacrifice to God our Father for the needs of all mankind. How many people today stand in need of our prayers! Whether we pray for our family or our friends, for peace among nations or harmony between individuals, for an end to problems such as hunger, disease and drug abuse, we can be confident that our prayers will be heard.

3. Dear friends: on this occasion I wish to say a special word of thanks to the individuals and groups who minister to the elderly and infirm in Malta. Together with Government agencies, Church organizations such as the Kummissjoni Morda of Maltese Catholic Action, Caritas and the Association for the Transport of the Sick to Lourdes are dedicated to assisting Malta’s sick. In her homes for the elderly, the handicapped and those recovering from drug addiction the Church is making a notable contribution to the spiritual and physical well-being of Maltese society. My thoughts also turn to those many family members, friends and volunteers who comfort and support the elderly and sick by their presence and love. Your generosity and compassion for your brothers and sisters in need reflect the image of the Good Samaritan (cfr. Luc. 10, 30-37), whose compassion for his neighbour was the expression of a profound love and solidarity (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Salvifici Doloris, 28).

In a moment we shall recite together the beautiful hymn: "Regina Coeli", which invites the entire Church to share in the joy of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Resurrection of Jesus her Son. Even when she stood at the foot of his Cross, Mary never ceased to trust that God’s promises would be fulfilled. For this reason, Mary is the model of all disciples as they seek to follow the Lord in unwavering faith, hope and love. With great confidence in God’s infinite mercy and goodness, then, let us join Mary on this last Sunday in May, Mary’s month, in praying for all who bear a heavy burden of suffering that they may come to know the joy of his eternal victory."

St John Paul II's address to Representatives of various Churches & Ecclesial Communities
Cathedral of Mdina, Sunday 27 May 1990 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. It is a particular joy for me to have this opportunity of meeting members of the various Churches and ecclesial communities present in Malta. I greet you in the name of our one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and I assure you of my gratitude for your presence here this afternoon.

We gather as Christians in response to the call of God. The ecumenical movement, which is a work not principally of man but of the Holy Spirit, is a grace for the times in which we live. It is a gift for which we may fittingly give thanks and praise to God. Throughout the decades of this century, our eyes have been opened and we see more clearly that the unity of Christians is truly the will of God, and that we are called to cooperate in bringing it about. The search for Christian unity requires us to rediscover our common heritage of faith and of moral values. It involves the exercise of a common memory whereby together we appropriate the great truths of faith and expose the wounds of the past to the healing love of our Risen and Glorious Saviour. Full communion of all people in faith and sacramental life is God’s plan for his family. That plan was revealed in Christ and is becoming progressively clearer to us under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

2. There is a special poignancy in our considering this challenge in the place where we are gathered today. Here in the Cathedral of Mdina, we are in the old city the "Vecchia Città" of Malta. According to popular tradition this Cathedral is built on the site of the palace of Publius, the "protos" of the island, who welcomed Paul of Tarsus when he suffered shipwreck on his way to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles recounts: "the island was called Malta. The inhabitants treated us with unusual kindness. They made us welcome and they lit a huge fire because it had started to rain and the weather was cold" (Act. 28, 1-2).

The figure of Saint Paul illuminates the ecumenical and missionary task that Christians face today. His writings put vividly before us the central message of the Gospel: that Jesus Christ is our only Saviour and that we find eternal life through faith in him. The work of Christ his saving Death and Resurrection is the centre of our faith. This is the Good News we have all received. It is a message that has been welcomed throughout the ages by the people of Malta. It has inspired them to follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul by proclaiming this Good News in many parts of the world, imitating his courage and zeal, and his willingness to make great sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel.

Today, as we approach the third millennium of the Christian era, it is incumbent, upon all of us who have been baptized into Christ to bear strong and ever more united witness to him. The differences which prevent us from enjoying the fullness of unity in faith and sacramental life which is the will of Christ for his followers should not distract us from the wonder of what we have in common: a personal Saviour who died and rose that we might live. The quest for Christian unity and the call to witness are intimately related. It should never be thought that missionary endeavour and ecumenical endeavour are somehow in competition, or that one develops at the expense of the other. Our very striving for unity itself bears witness to the healing and reconciling work of God. We seek ever deeper reconciliation with one another so that the world may see more clearly that "God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5, 19).

3. It is in the context of these reflections that I would take the opportunity of commending the work of the Catholic Ecumenical Commission. The Maltese people are almost entirely Catholic and the other Christians mostly come from overseas. Yet the Catholics of Malta have not failed to grasp that "the Catholic Church is committed to the ecumenical movement with an irrevocable decision and desires to contribute to it with all its possibilities" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad Patres Cardinales Romanaeque Curiae Praelatos et Officiales coram admissos, 10, die 28 iun. 1985: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VIII, 1 [1985] 1999).

The responsibility of carrying out this task does not lie only with those countries where there is a strong presence of Orthodox, Anglican, or Protestant Christians alongside the Catholic Church. On the contrary, those countries are in great need of the prayer, interest and support of countries with a large Catholic majority. When another Church or ecclesial community agrees to enter into dialogue with the Catholic Church, it enters into a new relationship with the whole of the Catholic Church. The Ecumenical Commission in Malta, recognizing this fact, has aimed at fostering an ecumenical spirit within the Catholic community. This has in turn created a cordial relationship between Catholics and the other Christians living here. The importance of your local work and of these good relations should not be underestimated.

4. Dear friends, over nineteen hundred years ago Malta received and warmly welcomed the great bearer of the message of reconciliation: the Apostle Paul. The Maltese received him in kindness and charity and his message has taken root in this land. I urge you all today to welcome once more the message of Paul that "God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5, 9). I urge you to enter deeply into the prayer of Christ: "May they all be one, Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me" (Io. 17, 21).

To the representatives of the Muslim community I express my heartfelt greeting and thank you for your presence. I assure you that the Catholic Church looks to you with sentiments of brotherhood and esteem, trusting that much good in the service of humanity can come from increased understanding and dialogue between us. Indeed, it is important that all believers in the Merciful and Almighty God should strive together to promote and safeguard, for all mankind, social justice, moral values, peace and an effective and mutually applicable religious freedom (Cfr. Nostra Aetate, 3).

Let us all be fervent in prayer and strong in hope. May God who has begun the good work in us bring it to fulfilment. Amen."

St John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass for the Faithful of Malta
Granaries Square, Floriana, Sunday 27th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. Today, the solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension, is a day of great rejoicing! The Church throughout the world rejoices as Jesus Christ returns in glory to the right hand of the Father. Today the Catholics of Malta have a special reason to rejoice, for they are gathered around this altar with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, who has come to confirm his brethren in faith and love (Cfr. Luc. 22, 23). In the unity of the Spirit (Cfr. Eph. 4, 3), I greet with great affection and esteem Archbishop Mercieca and Bishop Cauchi, and all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo. My greetings go as well to the public authorities and all of Malta’s people, upon whom I invoke the grace and peace of the Risen Lord and the consolation of his Holy Spirit. The glorious event which today’s liturgy recalls was still a vivid memory among the first disciples of Jesus when Christianity came to Malta through the preaching and witness of Saint Paul. Today, over nineteen hundred years later, belief in the Crucified and Risen Saviour has left a profound mark upon the soul of the Maltese people, and found eloquent expression in many aspects of your national life. It is appropriate that on this joyful occasion we should give thanks for the faith which Malta received from the Apostles, and for the "infinitely great power" (Cfr. Eph. 1, 19), with which the Lord Jesus Christ has brought forth abundant fruits of holiness in the lives of its people for so many centuries. As we meet at this altar, I ask God our heavenly Father to inspire in Malta’s Catholics an ever deeper unity of mind, heart and spirit, that you may worthily proclaim, in words and in deeds, the atonement and reconciliation which Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross and which he continues to accomplish through the ministry of the Church, his Body!

2. In the first Reading of today’s Mass, Saint Luke tells us that, after "Jesus gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit", he "was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight" (Act. 1, 2. 9). Just as in the Old Testament the cloud was frequently a sign of the saving presence of God among his people, so today, as it conceals Jesus, it is a reassuring sign that the Risen Lord, in returning to the glory that was his from the beginning, has not abandoned us at all. Instead, he remains truly present and at work in our midst, until the day when he will come again in glory. Although Jesus has left the earth and returned to his heavenly Father we have his word that he will never leave his Church. Jesus promises to be with us "always; yes, to the end of time" (Matth. 28, 20).

In the mystery of God’s plan for the Church and for all mankind, the Ascension marks a turning-point, the beginning of a new stage in Jesus’ relationship to his disciples. Seated at God’s right hand in heaven, the Risen Lord is now present in "the Church, which is his body" (Eph. 1, 22-23), through the power of the Holy Spirit. By the indwelling of the Spirit in their hearts, believers in every age receive a share in that communion of perfect love that is the life of the Blessed Trinity. And they are given the grace to follow the Lord in a way that can overcome the world (Cfr. Io. 16, 33), and its ancient burden of hostility, sin and division.

The Holy Spirit dwells within the Church, and it is he who enables all believers to work effectively for the coming of the Kingdom, to witness to the truth of the Gospel and to the reality of the redemption which we have received through the blood of the Cross.

Through the Spirit’s power the Church is confident that she will indeed fulfil the solemn charge which Jesus left to his followers, to "make disciples of all the nations" and to "baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matth. 28, 19). "Sent by Christ to reveal and communicate the love of God to all men and nations" (Ad Gentes, 10), the Church knows that only in the Spirit will she succeed in her divine mission of drawing all mankind to Christ, and in bringing to society the grace and peace which he won for us on Calvary.

3. Today, at the close of my visit, I invite the Church in Malta to meditate on the quality of its response to the great mission which Jesus gave his disciples as he returned to the Father: "You will be my witnesses... to the ends of the earth" (Act. 1, 8). I ask you to reflect upon the noble witness of fidelity to the Gospel which the people of these islands have given through the centuries. Beginning with Saint Publius, a great army of confessors, many of whose names are known only to God, has stood fast and maintained the faith, handing it down from generation to generation, even in the face of persecution and adversity. And what of the vast numbers of missionaries who have gone forth from Malta’s shores, the many priests and religious whose apostolic labours have strengthened the Church at home, the parents whose faithful perseverance in the faith has borne such rich fruit in devotion and goodness among their children? Truly we can praise God for this witness in the words which Saint Paul himself uses in today’s second Reading: "How infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers"! (Eph. 1, 19).

But it is not enough to reflect with humility and gratitude upon God’s gifts to you in the past. Today, the Church in Malta must also listen to Christ’s voice as he challenges you to continue to bear witness to the power of his reconciling love. How many of you have shared with me your sorrow at the serious divisions which are felt at different levels of your society! Can any Christian believe that these divisions are from God? Does not our faith teach us that the root of all hostility among individuals and groups is sin, that ancient sin that ignores and rejects the image of God in our neighbour? In the end, are not all human divisions the fruit of a sinful "refusal of God’s fatherly love and of his loving gifts"? (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 10). In the light of the faith which we profess, can we ever justify hostility towards our neighbour or believe that we are exempted from the Lord’s command to love our enemies and to forgive " from the heart " (Cfr. Matth. 18, 35), those who sin against us?

Dear Brothers and Sisters: in the name of Jesus Christ, I solemnly appeal to all of you today to examine yourselves (Cfr. 1 Cor. 11, 28), and to put an end to everything that prevents the healing of wounds which have been left open too long. In the name of Jesus Christ, I plead with you to make a new beginning of forgiveness and respect for one another. With confidence in the sovereign power of God’s grace, especially as it comes to you in the Sacrament of Penance, may you be sustained in the difficult work of restoring mutual respect and dialogue on every level of your national and social life. A major task for all of Malta’s Christians is to lay aside grudges and overcome division, whether it be in your families, your place of work, or in political life. Today, the Lord is challenging each of you to translate the faith which you have received into a living and vibrant witness to the power of his reconciling love. And he is asking you to join with all of your brothers and sisters, none excluded, in building a society worthy of Malta’s distinguished tradition of Christian faith and virtue!

4. In today’s liturgy, we have heard Saint Paul pray for the unity and peace of the Christians at Ephesus. I make his prayer my own as I address you, my dear brothers and sisters of the Churches of Malta and Gozo. I pray that God our Father will always "enlighten the eyes of your minds so that you can see what hope his call holds for you" (Eph. 1, 18-19).

May he enlighten you! In these last years of the Second Millennium, how clear it is that so many men and women need to be "enlightened" by God’s grace, so that they will recognize all that is inconsistent with their dignity as sons and daughters of God, made in his image and likeness (Cfr. Gen. 1, 26-27), and called to grow into a life that will have no end. In these days, as we look to Eastern Europe and observe the collapse of materialistic ideologies which sought to deprive man of his very soul, we cannot fail to notice elsewhere the rise of a practical materialism, a new idolatry, which also threatens to smother the spirit. How much do Christians need to be "enlightened" by Christ so they may reject as incompatible with authentic human freedom and dignity the new culture of consumerism, which glorifies pleasure as an end in itself, without reference to the moral law, and ultimately denies our solidarity with those in need!

May he enlighten you! More than once in her history, Malta has been admired and praised for her uncompromising defence of the Christian faith and her willingness to endure heroic sacrifices for the sake of the culture which that faith nourished and sustained. In our own days, as Europe prepares to enter a new period of its history, a period filled with fresh hopes and challenges, 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!

5. Our celebration of the Ascension reminds us that Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father as the Judge of the living and the dead, the Judge of all mankind and all history. "How infinitely great is his power!" (Eph. 1, 19). By his Death on the Cross, Jesus laid bare once and for all the tragic consequences of Adam’s sin and brought reconciliation and peace to all humanity.

Never fail to trust in that power! Jesus has transformed the world and made it a new creation. In Jesus, the second Adam, each of you, by virtue of Baptism, has been called to cooperate in preparing this world for his coming in glory and the full establishment of his Kingdom "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace" (Missale Romanum, «Praefatio in Sollemnitate Christi universorum Regis»). Never doubt that our Saviour, "who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3, 20), will equip you for every good work and enable you to fulfil the mission to which he has called you!

"Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there" (Act. 1, 11). As the Church "waits in joyful hope" for her Lord to return in glory, I pray that in your families, in your local Churches, in your social and political life, each of you will cooperate faithfully in Christ’s work of building his Kingdom until the day, known only to the Father, when he will return in glory. Amen."

Remarks at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Celebration:

"My dear Brothers and Sisters,
The power of the Almighty God brought the Apostle Paul to the shores of Malta. That was the beginning of a new era, of a Christian era, and it was here that he evangelized your forefathers, but his destination was Rome; and when he went to Rome, he joined Peter, and he probably spoke to the Apostle Peter about Malta. But it seems to me that it was necessary to wait almost 2,000 years until one of the successors of Peter in Rome could visit Malta.

What should I do now? It was not possible for Paul to remain in Malta. It is also, and more so, impossible for Peter to remain in Malta. So I shall return to Rome and I shall meet Paul. It is necessary to meet Paul and to tell him about Malta.

I shall say, "Paul, do you remember Malta? Do you remember that you founded a Church in Malta, and I found after so many centuries that it is wonderful church. It is a very strong people. Malta has good Catholic people; and returning to Rome, I shall say to the Italian people in the language you also understand 'Sia lodato Gesù Cristo'".

But where did I learn these words? The first time I pronounced these words was after my election, but I learned these words in my native country, and there are some Polish people here. I should say to them, but then you could not so easily understand...

So, after my visit in Malta I shall do all that in Rome and for the moment, I also, only for the moment, shall speak in your native language."

Pope St John Paul II's address at the Farewell Ceremony
Luga Airport, Sunday 27th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Mr President, Mr Prime Minister,
Dear Archbishop Mercieca and Bishop Cauchi, Beloved People of Malta,
1. Earlier today, at Rabat, I was privileged to spend a few moments in silent prayer at the ancient Grotto venerated as Saint Paul’s dwelling during his stay in Malta. In that holy place, I gave thanks to God for the rich harvest of faith and good works which he has brought forth among you since the Apostle of the Gentiles first proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your forebears. I also thanked the Lord for the "unusual kindness" (Cfr. Act. 28, 2), with which, nineteen centuries later, another visitor, the Successor of Peter, was welcomed to Malta as he came to preach the same Gospel and to confirm his Maltese brothers and sisters in the same faith (Cfr. Luc. 22, 32).

This evening, as I return to Rome, I wish to express my gratitude to all who have helped to make this Pastoral Visit possible. In the first place, I renew my thanks to you, Mr President, for your gracious welcome. I am also grateful to you. Mr Prime Minister, and to the Government and civil authorities who have so readily provided assistance in organizing the events of these past days. Of course, I cannot fail to express my deep gratitude to my Brothers Bishops and to the priests, religious and laity of the Churches of Malta and Gozo for the warm reception accorded me at every stage of my Visit.

2. Throughout my time in Malta, I have been impressed by the deep attachment of the Maltese people to their cultural and religious heritage. Your desire to be faithful to this precious legacy as you seek to promote your development for the good of all is certainly a sign of great hope for Malta’s future. Your traditions are a wonderful expression of your national character and identity. May they continue to guide your steps and strengthen your resolve.

During my Visit I have appealed to all who have the good of the nation at heart– political and social leaders, workers, intellectuals, the young people, as well as the members of other Churches and ecclesial communities: I have urged you to apply to the challenges of the present time the Christian vision which you have inherited from your past. In making this appeal, I have also expressed my confidence that you will work together generously and effectively to create a society inspired by the highest ideals of justice and peace, and marked by special attention to the needs of the less fortunate members of the community.

3. Beyond her own borders, Malta is esteemed for her efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation within the international community. Your efforts in this regard will be greatly strengthened by an equal commitment to see those values realized at home, within the social and political life of your nation. My parting wish for you is that unity, solidarity and mutual respect may ever lead you on as you strive for your country’s continued progress.

With renewed thanks to Almighty God for the many blessings we have shared during these days, I pray, in the words of Saint Paul, that "the Lord of peace will give you peace at all times in all ways" (Cfr. 2 Thess. 3, 16). May love and harmony always dwell in your hearts and in your homes.

God Bless Malta.
God bless you all.

Il-mulei Issàwwab fuqkom il-barka tieghu
(The Lord bestows his blessing on you)."