Speaking to journalists aboard the flight to Malta on Saturday afternoon, Pope Benedict offered insight into his reasons for choosing to travel to the Mediterranean island. He also sent a message of hope to the Church, saying that "shipwrecks" can provide a new start in life and that the wounds of the Church can be healed through the Gospel.
The Holy Father offered an instructional catechesis while listing the essential reasons for his visit to Malta.
The 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck, he said, provided an occasion to throw "light on the important figure of the Apostle to the Gentiles and his message." This message, the Pope added, can be seen in its essence in St. Paul's words to the Galatians:"Faith expressed in charity."
"Faith," he highlighted, is "the relationship with God which then transforms itself into charity" and continues to have importance for us today. Recalling the gift of faith in Malta which resulted from St. Paul's shipwreck, Pope Benedict said that we can also see that "the shipwrecks of life can be part of God's project for us, and can be useful for a new beginning to our lives."
The next reason the Pope offered for his decision was that he was "glad to be in the midst of a lively Church such as that in Malta, which even today is rich in vocations, which is full of faith and responds to the challenges of our time."
He added, "I am aware that Malta loves Christ and loves His Church which is His Body, and that it knows that, even if this body is wounded by our sins, the Lord still loves His Church ...and His Gospel is the true force that purifies and heals."
The final underlying reason for having chosen Malta as the destination of his first pastoral visit of the year was its position as an entry point for "waves of refugees" from Africa. This being a "great problem of our time" which cannot be confronted by Malta alone, he expressed the need for a unified response to the challenge of giving people a dignified life, both "in their own land" or "here."
Malta, said the Pope, reminds us of these problems and also reminds us that "faith is the force which leads to charity, which allows us to respond well to these challenges."
The Holy Father arrived in Malta on Saturday evening and will be returning to Rome at around 7 PM local Maltese time.