Potpourri of Popery, Maltese Edition


Cathedral in Rabat, site of St. Paul's shipwreck. Photo credit.

The Pope was in Malta all weekend. The purpose of the trip, planned long before we entered all child abuse all the time mode, was to commemorate the 1950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck, which led to the Maltese faith.

What has garnered all the headlines thus far this weekend is not the trip to Malta, but an off-the-cuff homily the Pope gave last Thursday to the Pontifical Biblical Commission. A text is not yet available, but just the Vatican Radio summary is blockbuster:
for Christians, true obedience to God depends on our truly knowing Him, and he warned against the danger of using “obedience to God” as a pretext for following our own desires.
“We have,” he said, “a certain fear of speaking about eternal life.”

“We talk of things that are useful to the world,” continued Pope Benedict, “we show that Christianity can help make the world a better place, but we do not dare say that the end of the world and the goal of Christianity is eternal life – and that the criteria of life in this world come from the goal – this we dare not say.”

We must rather have the courage, the joy, the great hope that there is eternal life, that eternal life is real life and that from this real life comes the light that illuminates this world as well.

The Pope noted that, when we look at things this way, penitence is a grace – even though of late we have sought to avoid this word, too.

Now, under the attacks of the world, which speak to us of our sins, we see that to be able to do penance is a grace – and we see how necessary it is to do penance, that is, to recognize what is wrong in our lives: to recognize one’s sin, to open oneself to forgiveness, to prepare for pardon, to allow oneself to be transformed.

The pain of penance, the pain of purification and transformation – this pain is grace, because it is renewal – it is the work of the Divine Mercy.
Now on to Malta. Fun fact: Archbishop Cremona of Malta drummed up youth attendance for the papal events by barhopping.

B16's statement on the airplane. No press conference this time, no doubt because we know what the questions would have been and he didn't wish to make news before arriving. He did make an oblique reference though. His reasons for coming to Malta were three: to celebrate the anniversary of the shipwreck; to be with the Maltese Church; and to address immigration (Malta being the place where African immigrants "knock at the door" of Europe).
I know that Malta loves Christ, and loves his church, which is his body. And [Malta] knows that even if this body is wounded by our sins, the Lord still loves this Church, and its Gospel is the true strength that purifies and heals.
The airport address upon arrival. (Golly, look at the Maltese sentences he speaks. That is a weird language.) He encourages the Maltese to be a "bridge of understanding" between cultures, and congratulates them for their missionary work in Africa. Both he and the President of Malta (whose welcome of the Holy Father was fantastic, by the way) speak about Malta being key to "reciprocity" --which is Vatican-speak for insisting that Muslim nations permit non-Muslims the same free exercise afforded Muslims in non-Muslim lands.

At the Grotto of St. Paul, he asked the Maltese to share their faith in imitation of St. Paul and not be afraid of the vicissitudes of life.
Saint Paul’s arrival in Malta was not planned. As we know, he was travelling to Rome when a violent storm arose and his ship ran aground on this island. Sailors can map a journey, but God, in his wisdom and providence, charts a course of his own
Homily at Mass in Floriana. Here he again takes up the idea of Malta as a crossroads of cultures, and asks the Maltese to be discerning in what they take in and generous in giving Christ to others.
Our first reading at Mass today is one that I know you love to hear, the account of Paul’s shipwreck on the coast of Malta, and his warm reception by the people of these islands. Notice how the crew of the ship, in order to survive, were forced to throw overboard the cargo, the ship’s tackle, even the wheat which was their only sustenance. Paul urged them to place their trust in God alone, while the ship was tossed to and fro upon the waves. We too must place our trust in him alone. It is tempting to think that today’s advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Only he can protect us from harm, only he can guide us through the storms of life, only he can bring us to a safe haven, as he did for Paul and his companions adrift off the cast of Malta. They did as Paul urged them to do, and so it was “that they all escaped safely to the land” (Acts 27:44).
More than any of the cargo we might carry with us – in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology – it is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfillment.
He took an "unscheduled" (meaning, the press not invited or informed beforehand) with abuse victims, too. I always find the victims' accounts of such meetings very moving. Just imagine the human drama. The gentle and righteous Paterfamilias meeting with his "grandchildren," so to speak, who have been deeply harmed by his own sons, in betrayal of everything he ever taught them.

More coverage at the Catholic Herald's Malta page, and their correspondent Anna Arco's blog.
Papal pilgrimages for the remainder of the year have been announced. He's going to Turin, Fatima, Cyprus and Britain, among other places. And here's how the Pope spent his 83rd birthday.

Update: More from Malta. Address to Maltese youth. (The Pope got to go on a boat tour of Valletta after: fun). This is my favorite of his addresses in Malta, and it becomes more powerful when you understand that he was responding to some very incisive questions from young people, particularly this one.
I wish to speak on behalf of those young people who, like me feel they are on the outskirts of the Church. We are the ones who do not fit comfortably into stereo-typed roles. This is due to various factors among them: either because we have experienced substance abuse; or because we are experiencing the misfortune of broken or dysfunctional families; or because we are of a different sexual orientation; among us are also our immigrant brothers and sisters, all of us in some way or another have encountered experiences that have estranged us from the Church. Other Catholics put us all in one basket. For them we are those “who claim to believe yet do not live up to the commitment of faith.”
To us, faith is a confusing reality and this causes us great suffering. We feel that not even the Church herself recognizes our worth. One of our deepest wounds stems from the fact that although the political forces are prepared to realize our desire for integration, the Church community still considers us to be a problem. It seems almost as if we are less readily accepted and treated with dignity by the Christian community than we are by all other members of society.
 We understand that our way of life puts the Church in an ambiguous position, yet we feel that we should be treated with more compassion – without being judged and with more love.
We are made to feel that we are living in error. This lack of comprehension on the part of other Christians causes us to entertain grave doubts, not only with regards to community life, but also regarding our personal relationship with God. How can we believe that God accepts us unconditionally when his own people reject us?
Your Holiness, we wish to tell you that on a personal level – and some of us, even in our respective communities – are persevering to find ways in which we may remain united in Jesus, who we consider to be our salvation.
However, it is not that easy for us to proclaim God as our Father, a God who responds to all those who love him without prejudice. It is a contradiction in terms when we bless God’s Holy Name, whilst those around us make us feel that we are worth nothing to him.
We feel emarginated, almost as if we had not been invited to the banquet. God has called to him all those who are in the squares and in the towns, those who are on the wayside and in the country side, however we feel he has bypassed our streets. Your Holiness, please tell us what exactly is Jesus’ call for us. We wish you to show to us and the rest of the Church just how valid is our faith, and whether our prayers are also heard. We too wish to give our contribution to the Catholic community.
Your Holiness, what must we do?
I love that question because it is so sincere and "real," and because it is so like Benedict not to fear a real question. The Pope responds in part:
Maybe some of you will say to me, Saint Paul is often severe in his writings. How can I say that he was spreading a message of love? My answer is this. God loves every one of us with a depth and intensity that we can hardly begin to imagine. And he knows us intimately, he knows all our strengths and all our faults. Because he loves us so much, he wants to purify us of our faults and build up our virtues so that we can have life in abundance. When he challenges us because something in our lives is displeasing to him, he is not rejecting us, but he is asking us to change and become more perfect. That is what he asked of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. God rejects no one. And the Church rejects no one. Yet in his great love, God challenges all of us to change and to become more perfect.
It's not noble of me to point this out, perhaps, but I note this passage:
I say, do not be afraid! You may well encounter opposition to the Gospel message. Today’s culture, like every culture, promotes ideas and values that are sometimes at variance with those lived and preached by our Lord Jesus Christ. Often they are presented with great persuasive power, reinforced by the media and by social pressure from groups hostile to the Christian faith. It is easy, when we are young and impressionable, to be swayed by our peers to accept ideas and values that we know are not what the Lord truly wants for us. That is why I say to you: do not be afraid, but rejoice in his love for you; trust him, answer his call to discipleship, and find nourishment and spiritual healing in the sacraments of the Church.
I think that passage reinforces the correctness of my observation that reporters at times are useless.

And: the parting address at the airport.

And finally: Ramirez. And threat alert Jesus. And 12 Sweetest Pope Pictures (to combat that other 'net meme).