Pope in Malta: Amid winds of war, a call for shared future of peace
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis wishes that Malta, in the heart of the Mediterranean, may continue to foster the heartbeat of hope, care for life, acceptance of others and yearning for peace. Delivering his first public discourse on Maltese soil (click here for full text), addressed to the country’s authorities and the diplomatic corps in the capital Valetta, he used the analogy of the compass rose, or “rose of winds” to encourage Malta and Europe on the path of peace, legality, respect for life and human dignity and open itself to people on the move.
Pope Francis who is on Saturday kicked off the 36th apostolic journey of his pontificate, April 2-3, referred to the four cardinal points of the compass rose to describe four fundamental influences for Malta’s social and political life.
EU and peace
The wind that blows from the northwest comes from the European Union, “the single great family united in maintaining peace”. For peace, which follows unity and rises from it, the Pope said, the Maltese people need to work together strengthening the shared roots and values of their society. Stressing that honesty, justice, a sense of duty and transparency ensure a sound social coexistence, he encouraged the island nation’s commitment to legality and transparency in order to eradicate corruption and criminality.
The Pope also recalled that the EU, committed to justice and social equality, is also in forefront of efforts to protect the larger home that is God’s creation. “It must therefore be kept safe from rapacious greed, from avarice and from construction speculation, which compromises not only the landscape but the very future.”
The protection of the environment and the promotion of social justice, he said, are the best ways to instil in young people a passion for healthy politics and to shield them from the temptation to indifference and lack of commitment.
Roots – the memory of the past
Speaking about the winds blowing from the west, the Holy Father said that Malta, an EU member, shares western lifestyles and thinking, such as values of freedom and of democracy. However, one must watch out against detachment from one’s own roots. “Progress does not mean cutting one’s roots with the past in the name of a false prosperity dictated by profit, by needs created by consumerism, to say nothing of the right to have any and every ‘right’.
A sound development needs to preserve the memory of the past and foster respect and harmony between the generations, without yielding to bland uniformity and to forms of ideological colonization.”
Respect for life, human dignity
The Pope further pointed out that the basis of all solid growth is respect for the human person, for the life and dignity of every man and every woman. He encouraged the commitment of the Maltese people to embracing and protecting life at every moment from its beginning to its natural end. This also includes the dignity of workers, the elderly and the sick.
Speaking of young people who follow the emptiness of mirages, he said they squander the goodness in them. These are the fruits of radical consumerism and indifference to the needs of others and the scourge of drugs, which suppresses freedom and creates dependence.
The south wind reminded the Pope about the many brothers and sisters from the poor densely populated south who come to the wealthy north in search of hope. While thanking Malta for welcoming migrants, he pointed out that migration is not a temporary situation, and brings with it the burden of past injustice, exploitation, climatic changes and tragic conflicts, whose effects are now making themselves felt.
Migration cannot be ignored by adopting anachronistic isolationism, which will not produce prosperity and integration. The growing migration emergency, which now includes refugees from war-torn Ukraine, he said calls for a broad-based and shared response. The Pope said, “The Mediterranean needs co-responsibility on the part of Europe, in order to become a new theatre of solidarity and not the harbinger of a tragic shipwreck of civilization.”
Recalling that St. Paul, shipwrecked in Malta, was a man in need of assistance, the Holy Father said, “Other people are not a virus from which we need to be protected, but persons to be accepted.”
Finally, the wind blowing from the east of Europe, the Pope said, reminds us of the dark shadows of war that have now spread. Without mentioning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he said that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats are not grim memories of a distant past. “The icy winds of war, which bring only death, destruction and hatred in their wake, have swept down powerfully upon the lives of many people and affected us all. Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that will either be shared or not be at all."
In the face of this challenge, the Pope urged all not to allow the dream of peace to fade.” “Malta, which shines brilliantly in the heart of the Mediterranean, can serve as an inspiration to us, for it is urgent to restore beauty to the face of a humanity marred by war”.
Evoking the image of the ancient beautiful Mediterranean statue of Eirene, holding in her arms Ploutus, wealth, he said it reminds us that peace generates prosperity, and war only poverty. Noting Eirene holding her child in her arms, he said “the presence of women is the true alternative to the baneful logic of power that leads to war”. “We need compassion and care, not ideological and populist visions fueled by words of hatred and unconcerned for the concrete life of the people, ordinary people.”
He also recalled noted Italian politician Georgio La Pira who after the devastation of World War II had raised his voice calling for the rule of moderation and universal fraternity against the exaltation of self-interest. “How much we need a “human moderation” before the infantile and destructive aggression that threatens us, before the risk of an “enlarged Cold War” that can stifle the life of entire peoples and generations,” the Pope said. That “childishness”, the Pope lamented, “has reemerged powerfully in the seductions of autocracy, new forms of imperialism, widespread aggressiveness, and the inability to build bridges and start from the poorest in our midst”.
The Pope lamented great investments in weaponry and a massive trade in arms. The enthusiasm for peace, which emerged after the Second World War, has faded with a few powers seeking spaces and zones of influence. “In this way,” the Pope warned, “not only peace but also so many great questions, like the fight against hunger and inequality are no longer on the list of the main political agendas.”
The Pope urged the international community to return to international peace conferences, where the theme of disarmament will have a central place, where the enormous funds that continue to be destined to weaponry, may be diverted to development, health care and nutrition.
Looking to the east of Malta, the Pope’s thoughts turned to the Middle East, especially Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, torn by problems and violence. “May Malta, the heart of the Mediterranean, continue to foster the heartbeat of hope, care for life, acceptance of others, yearning for peace, with the help of the God whose name is peace, the Pope urged.