.- The Archdiocese of Malta has announced the schedule of Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit to the island country for the 1,950th anniversary of the shipwreck of St. Paul. The country’s bishops have prayed that the pontiff will be welcomed to the island as warmly as St. Paul was.
Archbishop of Malta Paul Cremona and Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech announced the details of the visit in a letter to the Catholics of Malta.
Like St. Paul, the bishops said of Pope Benedict, “he shall come and abide among us for a brief period of time, in order to fulfill and fortify us in the faith which the Apostle Paul instilled within us. For this also, we wish to give thanks to our Lord.”
The Pope will arrive on April 17. He will be greeted by civil authorities at the Presidential Palace and by children gathered in St. George’s Square. He will then visit the place where tradition holds St. Paul preached the Word of God to the islanders.
Pope Benedict will proceed to St. Paul’s Grotto in Rabat and thank God for His providence. He will greet the general public along his route to Rabat and at the Grotto.
On Sunday, April 18 the Pope will celebrate Mass at the Granaries in Floriana. He will then travel to the Valletta Waterfront and preside over a gathering of youths.
According to the bishops of Malta, the Pope will encourage them to “strengthen their faith, fortify their hope and enkindle their hearts in love.”
The Pontiff will leave Malta on Sunday evening.
The bishops of Malta remembered St. Paul’s preaching in their letter:
“Imbued with the power of the Spirit and encouraged by the hope which God Himself instilled in Paul’s heart through His Angel, and as ordained by His Divine Plan, Paul brought to our ancestors, and to us, their descendants, the Good News of the Kingdom of God – a Kingdom as envisaged by Jesus Christ, Son of God made man, who through his birth, life, death and resurrection brought man to eternal life.”
“Today it is our turn, as heirs of the faith of our forefathers, to give witness to this faith and pass it onto our children. For this, we give thanks to our Lord.
“By the grace of God, may we as a nation, greet His Holiness warmly and welcome him as our Father, much in the same way that our ancestors paid homage to Paul and his friends,” Archbishop Cremona and Bishop Grech wrote.