Let us never forget Oklahoma City

Statue of Jesus weeping, located across the street from the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

In all the commemorations yesterday of Pope Benedict’s fifth anniversary as head of the universal church, another anniversary got short shrift — the 15th anniversary of the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Fortunately, Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda recalls the event in this piece titled “We will never forget: 15 years after the Oklahoma City bombing” on the blog of U.S. Catholic magazine.

Maria is a longtime friend of many of us here at Catholic News Service. An active member of the Catholic Press Association from her home in Norman, Okla., and an accomplished author and journalist, she covered the bombing for us as a freelance writer. (Visit her Web site here.)

Her essay on the bombing is a powerful remembrance of good triumphing over evil. “We will always remember that the stories of human goodness, generosity, and compassion overwhelmed and conquered one despicable act of evil,” she concludes after recounting the many acts of humanity that followed the bombing.

Yes, we must never forget.

Pope to youths in Malta: Be courageous witnesses to life

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict met with young people in Malta Sunday evening, urging them to be courageous witnesses to the sanctity of human life and the centrality of marriage and the family.

The pope held his encounter after crossing the waters of the Valletta port in a catamaran, accompanied by 10 young people. In his talk to some 10,000 youths on the waterfront, he asked them to maintain the firm faith of older generations, and told them that “the church rejects no one.”

Here is the text of his remarks:

Żgħażagħ Maltin u Għawdxin, jien kuntent ħafna li ninsab maghkom,

[Dear young people of Malta and Gozo, I am very happy to be with you,]What a joy it is for me to be with you today on your native soil! On this significant anniversary, we thank God for sending the Apostle Paul to these islands, which were thus among the first to receive the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I warmly greet Archbishop Cremona, as well as Bishop Grech whom I thank for his kind words, and all the bishops, priests and religious who are here. Most especially, I greet you, young people of Malta and Gozo, and I thank you for speaking to me of the matters that concern you most deeply. I appreciate your desire to seek and find the truth, and to know what you must do to attain the fullness of life.

Saint Paul, as a young man, had an experience that changed him for ever. As you know, he was once an enemy of the Church, and did all he could to destroy it. While he was Continue reading

Pope expresses shame, sorrow in meeting with sex abuse victims

VALLETTA, Malta — Pope Benedict XVI met with eight victims of priestly sex abuse in Malta and promised them the church would do “all in its power” to bring offenders to justice and protect children.

The pope was “deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered,” a Vatican statement said after the private encounter April 18.

“He prayed with them and assured them that the church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future,” the statement said.

“In the spirit of his recent letter to the Catholics of Ireland, he prayed that all the victims of abuse would experience healing and reconciliation, enabling them to move forward with renewed hope,” it said. Continue reading

Vatican text: Pope meets with sex abuse victims in Malta

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict met today with a group of sex abuse victims in Malta. Here is the Vatican’s statement on the encounter:

PRESS RELEASE: MEETING OF THE POPE WITH A GROUP OF PERSONS WHO WERE SEXUALLY ABUSED

On Sunday 18 April 2010, in the Apostolic Nunciature in Malta, the Holy Father met a small group of persons who were sexually abused by members of the clergy.

He was deeply moved by their stories and expressed his shame and sorrow over what victims and their families have suffered. He prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future.

In the spirit of his recent Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, he prayed that all the victims of abuse would experience healing and reconciliation, enabling them to move forward with renewed hope.

Pope at Malta Mass: ‘With him, we can do all things’

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating Mass Sunday morning in Malta, Pope Benedict urged the island’s people to preserve their rich tradition of faith at a time when “many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and his church, and to choose for ourselves the values and beliefs by which to live.”

Here is the text of the pope’s homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
Maħbubin uliedi [My dear sons and daughters],I am very glad to be here with all of you today before the beautiful church of Saint Publius to celebrate the great mystery of God’s love made manifest in the Holy Eucharist. At this time, the joy of the Easter season fills our hearts because we are celebrating Christ’s victory, the victory of life over sin and death. It is a joy which transforms our lives and fills us with hope in the fulfilment of God’s promises. Christ is risen, alleluia!

I greet the President of the Republic and Mrs Abela, the civil authorities of this beloved Nation, and all the people of Malta and Gozo. I thank Archbishop Cremona for his gracious words, and I also greet Bishop Grech and Bishop Depasquale, Archbishop Mercieca, Bishop Cauchi and the other bishops and priests present, as well as all the Christian faithful of the Church in Malta and Gozo. Since my arrival yesterday evening I have experienced the same kind of warm welcome which your ancestors gave the Apostle Paul in the year sixty.

Many travellers have disembarked here in the course of your history. The richness and variety of Maltese culture is a sign that your people have profited greatly from the exchange of gifts and hospitality with seafaring visitors. And it is a sign that you have known how to exercise discernment in drawing upon the best of what they had to offer. Continue reading

Papal plane outruns ash cloud (for now)

VALLETTA, Malta — Even the papal plane was trying to outrun the giant ash cloud billowing south from Iceland.

When I was getting ready to fly with the pope yesterday, I kept expecting to get a call from someone saying our flight to Malta had been cancelled. Thankfully that call never came, but dozens  of flights to other parts of Europe had been cancelled and we saw many passengers sadly milling around the halls of Fiumicino’s Leonardi da Vinci airport.

After we boarded the Alitalia papal plane yesterday afternoon, Pope Benedict came back to the journalist section of the plane to offer some of his thoughts about his first trip to Malta. But first he began his short talk saying he hoped we would have a good trip and that it wouldn’t be hampered by “this dark cloud hanging over parts of Europe.”

We keep looking at the skies above secretly hoping the ash cloud is upon us so we will be grounded here for a few extra days. The city is lovely and the people are wonderful. It would be fitting for us to be stranded here like St. Paul and his companions were 1950 years ago!

Apparently we journalists aren’t the only ones wishing we get stranded here. According to the Times of Malta, during the pope’s visit with Malta’s political leaders in the Presidential Palace Saturday, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi jokingly told the pope that he hoped the ash cloud would delay his departure today and therefore give him more time to see the island of Gozo. Apparently the Pope smiled, but did not reply.

At a late night briefing with reporters yesterday, we asked Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi if it looked like we would get stuck in Malta. He laughed that he really hadn’t had time to study the weather reports since he’s being so busy accompanying the pope, but, he said, if we get to the airport this evening and they tell us we can’t leave… “We’ll just have to see!”

Pope at St. Paul’s Grotto

VATICAN CITY — Visiting Malta, Pope Benedict paid a visit Saturday to the grotto where tradition holds that St. Paul took refuge after his shipwreck some 1,950 years ago.

The grotto lies beneath the Church of St. Paul in the village of Rabat. Here is the text of the pope’s talk at the end of his visit:

Dear Archbishop Cremona,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My pilgrimage to Malta has begun with a moment of silent prayer at the Grotto of Saint Paul, who first brought the faith to these islands. I have come in the footsteps of those countless pilgrims down the centuries who have prayed in this holy place, entrusting themselves, their families and the welfare of this nation to the intercession of the Apostle of the Gentiles. I rejoice to be at last in your midst and I greet all of you with great affection in the Lord!

Paul’s shipwreck and his three-month stay in Malta left an indelible mark upon the history of your country. His words to his companions prior to his arrival in Malta are recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles and have been a special theme in your preparation for my visit. Those words – “Jeħtieg iżda li naslu fi gżira” ["But we are to be stranded on some island"] (Acts 27:26). – in their original context are a summons to courage in the face of the unknown and to unfailing confidence in God’s mysterious providence. The castaways were, in fact, warmly welcomed by the Maltese people, following the lead given by Saint Publius. In God’s plan, Saint Paul thus became your father in the Christian faith. Thanks to his presence among you, the Gospel of Jesus Christ took deep root and bore fruit not only in the lives of individuals, families and communities, but also in the formation of Malta’s national identity and its vibrant and distinctive culture.

Paul’s apostolic labours also bore a rich harvest in the generations of preachers who followed in his footsteps, and particularly in the great number of priests and religious who imitated his missionary zeal by leaving Malta in order to bring the Gospel to distant shores. I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet so many of them today in this Church of Saint Paul, and to encourage them in their challenging and often heroic vocation. Dear missionaries: I thank all of you, in the name of the whole Church, for your witness to the Risen Lord and for your lives spent in the service of others. Your presence and activity in so many countries of the world brings honour to your country and testifies to an evangelical impulse deeply embedded in the Church in Malta. Let us ask the Lord to raise up many more men and women to carry forward the noble mission of proclaiming the Gospel and working for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom in every land and people!

Saint Paul’s arrival in Malta was not planned. As we know, he was travelling to Rome when a violent storm arose and his ship ran aground on this island. Sailors can map a journey, but God, in his wisdom and providence, charts a course of his own. Paul, who dramatically encountered the Risen Lord while on the road to Damascus, knew this well. The course of his life was suddenly changed; henceforth, for him, to live was Christ (cf. Phil 1:21); his every thought and action was directed to proclaiming the mystery of the Cross and its message of God’s reconciling love.

That same word, the word of the Gospel, still has the power to break into our lives and to change their course. Today the same Gospel which Paul preached continues to summon the people of these islands to conversion, new life and a future of hope. Standing in your midst as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I invite you to hear God’s word afresh, as your ancestors did, and to let it challenge your ways of thinking and the way you live your lives.

From this holy place where the apostolic preaching first spread throughout these islands, I call upon each of you to take up the exciting challenge of the new evangelization. Live out your faith ever more fully with the members of your families, with your friends, in your neighbourhoods, in the workplace and in the whole fabric of Maltese society. In a particular way I urge parents, teachers and catechists to speak of your own living encounter with the Risen Jesus to others, especially the young people who are Malta’s future. “Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!” (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 2). Believe that your moments of faith assure an encounter with God, who in his mighty power touches human hearts. In this way, you will introduce the young to the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith, and offer them a sound catechesis, inviting them to ever more active participation in the sacramental life of the Church.

The world needs this witness! In the face of so many threats to the sacredness of human life, and to the dignity of marriage and the family, do not our contemporaries need to be constantly reminded of the grandeur of our dignity as God’s children and the sublime vocation we have received in Christ? Does not society need to reappropriate and defend those fundamental moral truths which remain the foundation of authentic freedom and genuine progress?

Just now, as I stood before this Grotto, I reflected on the great spiritual gift (cf. Rom 1:11) which Paul gave to Malta, and I prayed that you might keep unblemished the heritage bequeathed to you by the great Apostle. May the Lord confirm you and your families in the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6), and make you joyful witnesses to the hope which never disappoints (cf. Rom 5:5). Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!

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