Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State 

Cardinal Parolin: Pope visits Malta with the Gospel of peace and welcome

On the eve of Pope Francis’ 36th Apostolic Journey, which takes him to Malta, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, stresses the need for a common commitment to saving lives and notes that the Pope’s visit to the Mediterranean island nation will focus on those in need, the phenomenon of migration and the hope that all wars will cease, including the one in Ukraine.

By Massimiliano Menichetti

To welcome, protect, promote and integrate. For the Pope’s trip to Malta, the Vatican secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin recalls these four verbs indicated by the Holy Father to embrace those who are fleeing wars, persecution, violence or seeking a better future, and he invites all of Europe to mutual sharing and responsibility.

At the center of the Pope’s visit is the proclamation of the Gospel in order to give "reasons for life and hope that we need so much in today's world. The trip, which was postponed in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, comes at a time when there is war in Ukraine. The Cardinal, who as usual, will be at the Pope’s side, reiterates Pope Francis’ sorrow for the ongoing war, and his hope that the weapons will be silenced.

Your Eminence in what spirit is the Pope preparing to leave?

R. - Certainly this is an eagerly awaited trip precisely because it has already been postponed once due to Covid, and at the same time it is taking place in this context of war that is worrying the Holy Father enormously. So I imagine that he will make this trip with this deep sorrow that he has already manifested on many occasions in recent months and in recent weeks for what is happening in Ukraine. And I imagine that he will repeat his appeal to stop the fighting, stop the weapons and continue the dialogue because in fact, negotiations are already underway even if they do not seem to have reached any concrete result. So, it will be a spirit of pain and participation in the suffering of that population, and an invitation to put an end to the war.

Malta is located in the middle of the "blue desert", as the Pope has defined the Mediterranean. A place that recalls the tragedy of migration. Europe is doing a lot for Ukrainian refugees, what more can it do for those who cross Mare Nostrum in search of hope?

R. - First of all, let us thank the Lord because we are witnessing a real competition of solidarity towards the refugees from Ukraine. It is truly admirable what the various European countries are doing for them. I hope that this tragic experience can really help to increase sensitivity with regard to the other migration, the one coming from the South, and it seems to me that in this regard there is no alternative to cooperation and sharing of responsibilities for the "burdens"- let's call them in this way- among all European countries, especially between those of arrival, first arrival, and then those of transit and destination.

So, first of all, the priority - as the Pope has often repeated - is to save lives, to save lives at sea, and this can be done by increasing the routes available for regular migration. And then, more importantly, working so that no one is forced to leave his homeland because of conflict situations, situations of insecurity or underdevelopment. Therefore, making investments in the countries of origin, especially in terms of economic development, political stability, good governance and respect for human rights. At the same time, combining those four verbs that the Pope has indicated to us: welcome, protect, promote and integrate, and truly putting it all together. No state can take the responsibility alone. There is a need for a common commitment that must also be shared with civil society, including religious groups and the Catholic Church in particular.

After Cyprus and Greece, the Pope will arrive on the Island of the shipwreck of St. Paul – another step in the footsteps of the great evangelizer of the Gentiles. We have also entered into the tenth year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, what assessment can we make, considering in particular, the outgoing Church that the Holy Father desires?

R. - It seems significant to me that in this tenth year of Pope Francis' pontificate, there is this trip to Malta, because Malta is linked to the figure of St. Paul who is the evangelizer par excellence, and if there is one note that has persistently characterized the pontificate of Francis it has been precisely that of the call, of the invitation to the Church to become missionary, to become increasingly missionary, to bring the proclamation of the Gospel to all, in every situation. This missionary outreach has two characteristics that I think are typically emphasized by Pope Francis, that is, to go towards real people, to meet them there in the situations in which they find themselves, which can be positive, negative or even critical. Certainly, his invitation is precisely that of a missionary conversion, and to convert takes time and good will. But I believe that this call has had a profound effect on the life of the Church and that most people are willing to move in this direction in order to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today and to give reasons, above all through the proclamation of the Gospel, reasons for life and hope that we need so much in today's world.

Pope Francis will be the third Pontiff to visit Malta, a country that has a Church that faces the typical challenges of Western societies. In what way can it live out this combination of identity and dialogue?

R.  - Even the Church in Malta is faced with the problems that the Church in all Western countries has to face to some degree. There is a great religious tradition of proximity, of closeness to the people and their needs, it is enough to think of the many works that exist in Malta as far as charity is concerned, attention to the least, attention to the sick, to the disabled and then education, as well as the very theme of emigration that we mentioned earlier, and the attention of the Church.

On the other hand, there has been a certain decline in religious practice and a certain breakdown of the Christian values on which society is founded. I believe that the answer is what we mentioned earlier, which can be - and Pope Francis naturally proposes it - formulated in the twofold concept of disciple-missionary. Where, in my opinion, disciple indicates identity, a strong Christian identity that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, from following Jesus Christ, the Christian identifies himself and his identity is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the disciple-missionary - this openness that must be translated above all through a dialogue with today's world. A dialogue that is, at the same time, welcoming and critical, even for the less positive aspects of our reality and our society.

Eighty-five percent of the population of Malta is Catholic. The Pope goes to confirm them in the faith, what is the hope?

R. - I hope that Malta will allow itself to be confirmed in its faith and that this faith will be translated into a testimony, into a strong awareness of the need for Maltese Christians to bear witness to their faith in the sense of proclamation. We can recall what Paul said: "Opportune et importune", at any time, in any situation, whether one likes it or not, I proclaim Jesus Christ, I proclaim his Gospel. Thus, a testimony that goes in that sense and a testimony that goes in the sense of incarnating one's own faith in charity and in welcoming others.

31 March 2022, 14:30