A Look Ahead at the Apostolic Voyage of Pope Benedict XVI to Malta
(RV- 16 Apr 2010) Pope Benedict XVI will set off tomorrow on his 14th
Apostolic Voyage, and his first to the Mediterranean island of Malta.
was invited by the bishops of Malta to mark the 1950 anniversary of the shipwreck
of St Paul.
He will spend Saturday and Sunday on the island, visiting its
people and celebrating with the local Church.
Two popemobiles, ten marching
bands, three hundred accredited foreign journalists, a choir of five thousand children
and eighteen hundred police.
They are just some of the numbers that make
up the organisational machine behind Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Malta.
only twenty-four hours to go, the people of this small windswept Mediterranean island
are busy washing the paved streets in front of their homes, hanging out flags and
flower baskets, as the papal colours of white and gold transform the sandstone streets
of the capital Valetta and beyond.
The Pope is scheduled to touch down at Luqa
international airport at 5pm local time Saturday afternoon, where he will he will
be welcomed by the President of Malta, George Abela.
Malta’s leading English
language newspaper, The Times of Malta, reports that the Pope will pass through
over 40 parishes on his journeys from the airport, through Valetta the capital, to
Rabat, home to the Grotto of St Paul and where he will speak directly to the people
for the first time.
This is the Grotto where 1950 years ago St Paul sought
refuge from a ship wreck, and where tradition holds he first preached the Christian
message to the people of the island. An island that is today home to 413 thousand
people, over 90% of whom say they are Catholic.
The Malta Times on line
has also published the routes the pope-mobile will take, after it was inundated
by requests from ordinary Maltese who in their own words, want to turn out to welcome
But this sense of anticipation, the excitement that permeates
the island and its people, has found little space in international press which instead
prefers to focus on the abuse scandal and their view of its impact on Pope Benedict.
Speculation over a meeting between Pope Benedict and Maltese victims of abuse
has abounded. On Friday, Archbishop Paul Cremona did not rule out the possibility
of such a meeting, but did point out that there was not much flexibility in the Pope's
24 hour programme to make such a meeting possible.
Also on Friday a local victim’s
support group welcomed the acceptance of their request for a meeting with the Promoter
of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Mgr Charles Scicluna.
Scicluna, a native of Malta and, has agreed to meet the group in June. In a statement
issued to press the group of ten men who were abused as children say that they “welcome
the Pope to Malta with open arms”.
A welcome that is reflected in the faces
of the people you meet on the streets. With only two days to go, organisers have
had to increase the seating capacity and widen the paths on Floriana Square where
the Holy Father will celebrate Mass on Sunday morning. While an estimated 10 thousand
young people have requested passes to attend their meeting with the Pope on Sunday
evening on Valletta Waterfront. And here are some last numbers for you. 400 the
number of prison inmates who will be included in the Waterfront meeting with the Pope,
150 the small coloured fishing boats that will form a guard of honour around the Pope
as he crosses Valetta harbour, the successor of St Peter the fisher of men, and finally,
365 the churches, one on almost every street, or as the Maltese themelves prefer to
say, “one for every day of the year”.