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John Paul II's 1st Apostolic Journey to Malta

25 - 27 May 1990

During Blessed Pope John Paul II's first pilgrimage to Malta, he spoke:
to priests & religious at Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in La Valletta
to the President of the Republic of Malta in La Valletta
to the faithful gathered at the Marian Sanctuary of Mellieha
at Holy Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Ta' Pinu in the island of Gozo
to the Bishops, professors and students of the Major Seminar of Victoria
during a Visit to the Cathedral of Victoria
to the workers of Malta in Cottonera
to the representatives of Malta’s scientific, cultural and artistic life at St. Julien Church in Sliema
to the young people of Malta at the National Stadium of Ta'Qali in Rabat
at the Regina Caeli in Rabat
to the members of various Churches and ecclesial communities at the Cathedral of Mdina
at Holy Mass for the faithful of the Archdiocese of Malta in Floriana
& at the Farewell ceremony at the International Airport of Luqa

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

John Paul II's Address to the Young People of Malta
National Stadium of Ta'Qali, Rabat - Sunday, 27 May 1990 - in English & 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."