News | Sunday, 13 September 2009
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Papal delegate to consider possible 2010 visit to Malta

A visit by the Holy See official responsible for pontifical visits will next month arrive in Malta to consider the possibility of a pastoral visit by Pope Benedict XVI in April.
Dr Alberto Gasbarri, who handles the Pontiff’s pastoral trips, is to consider a visit by the Pope in April 2010, on the occasion of the 1950th anniversary of St Paul’s shipwreck.
The news was enthusiastically received by the Maltese government, which expressed “happiness” in a statement yesterday. The government said it would be working together the ecclesiastical authorities in the preparations for Gasbarri’s visit.
The Maltese bishops said they encouraged the faithful “to pray for the Maltese islands to be blessed with a visit by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.”
The possible visit of Pope Benedict XVI in Malta will be the third visit of a Pontiff in the country. During the four years of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI made 12 apostolic visits outside Italy. In September this year, he will also visit the Czech Republic.
The first Pope to visit Malta was John Paul II in May 1990. Held between the 25-27 May, this visit was the Pope’s 48th apostolic trip outside Italy in the first 12 years of his Pontificate.
On the 8 May 2001, John Paul II visited Malta once again as part of his Pauline pilgrimage during which he also visited Greece and Syria. On the second and last day of his visit, John Paul beatified Dun Ġorġ Preca, Nazju Falzon and Adeodata Pisani.
Pope Benedict XVI has been invited by the Bishops of Malta and the President of the Republic to visit Malta on the occasion of the 1950th anniversary of St Paul’s shipwreck, which according to tradition occurred in 60 AD.
Last year, Pope Benedict XVI declared a year dedicated to Saint Paul, known as the Pauline Year. In Malta, the diocese of both Malta and Gozo organised various initiatives throughout the year, during which the faithful were encouraged to reflect on St Paul.
To end the Pauline Year, Pope Benedict XVI sent his delegate to Malta, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, to preside over the Eucharistic celebration held outside St John’s Co-Cathedral.
St Paul is the patron saint of Malta and is credited with bringing Christianity to the island, back when it was under Roman occupation.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul was a Hellenistic Jew from Tarsus – in present-day Turkey – who according to his own testimony, “violently persecuted” the followers of Christ prior to his conversion to Christianity.
As a missionary, he was later arrested and spent two years imprisoned in Caesarea until, in AD 59, he appealed to Caesar as a Roman citizen and was sent to Rome.
The Acts report that he was shipwrecked on Malta, where he was met by the Roman governor Publius, whom he baptised. The islanders showed him “unusual kindness”.

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