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MALTATODAY 3 April 2022

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NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 3 APRIL 2022 5 MATTHEW AGIUS POPE Francis's visit to Mal- ta will make Malta's historical ties to the Holy See even closer, President George Vella said as he welcomed the Pope to Malta this morning. Welcoming the Holy Father at the Palace in Valletta, Presi- dent Vella recalled being struck by the Pope's genuine interest in Malta and the regional chal- lenges it faced, "but above all your personal appreciation for the qualities and values which one ties to us Maltese." The destruction left in the wake of a global pandemic "has wrought havoc with our health and economic systems and is teaching us how solidarity be- tween human beings should be, lessons we should never for- get," said the President. The pandemic showed clear- ly the need for further work to strengthen social justice on a global level and the great im- portance of sharing human and material resources with each other, he said. There was still great inequali- ty on an economic level, as well as in access to healthcare, as well as with regards to unem- ployment, education, mobility, human rights, freedom of ex- pression and democracy, Pres- ident Vella said, urging "new levels of global solidarity, to tackle individualism, isolation, populism, ostracisation and xenophobia." 75 years after the second world war, it is tragic to see an- other horrifying war in Europe and the bloodshed it brought with it, he said. Malta would be promoting unity amongst all nations, said the President, and would con- tinue to attempt to help and show solidarity to the migrants who come to Malta. "We promise unity amongst the Maltese and our prayers," concluded the President. Pope inspiration for Malta's promotion of unity, Vella says duty and transparency mature civil society' Some countries cannot re- spond to the entire problem, while others remain indiffer- ent onlookers!" In a thinly-veiled reference to the human trafficking rings operating in the Mediterra- nean, who make fortunes by transporting economic mi- grants from Africa to Europe on unsafe boats, by dangling false hopes of well-paid work, the Pope said "civilized coun- tries cannot approve for their own interest sordid agree- ments with criminals who en- slave other human beings. The Mediterranean needs co-re- sponsibility on the part of Eu- rope, in order to become a new theatre of solidarity and not the harbinger of a tragic ship- wreck of civilization." "Paul was a man, a man in need of assistance. Humani- ty is first and foremost: that is the lesson taught by this country whose history was blessed by the arrival of the shipwrecked apostle. In the name of the Gospel that Paul lived and preached, let us open our hearts and rediscover the beauty of serving our neigh- bours in need. "Today, when those who cross the Mediterranean in search of salvation are met with fear and the narrative of "invasion", and safeguarding one's own security at any price seems to be the primary goal, let us help one another not to view the migrant as a threat and not to yield to the tempta- tion of raising drawbridges and erecting walls." "Other people are not a vi- rus from which we need to be protected, but persons to be accepted." The Russian invasion of Ukraine was also touched up- on by the Pope's speech, in which he urged humanity not to allow the dream of peace to fade. "We had thought that inva- sions of other countries, sav- age street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past. However, 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 provok- ing and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that, will either shared, or not be at all. Now in the night of the war that is fallen upon humanity, let us not allow the dream of peace to fade!" Pope Francis warned against the rise of autocracy, stressing the need for a "human mod- eration" before what he re- ferred to as "the infantile and destructive aggression that threatens us." This moderation was also needed in the face of the risk of an "enlarged Cold War" that can stifle the life of entire peoples and generations, he said. "That "childishness", sad- ly, has not disappeared. It has re-emerged powerfully in the seductions of autocracy, new forms of imperialism, wide- spread aggressiveness, and the inability to build bridges and start from the poorest in our midst. It is from there that cold wind of war begins to blow, and this time it has been encour- aged over the years. War has in fact been prepared for some time by great investments in weaponry and a massive trade in arms. It is distressing to see how the enthusiasm for peace, which emerged after the Sec- ond World War, has faded in these recent decades, as has the progress of the interna- tional community, with a few powers who go ahead on their own account, seeking spaces and zones of influence." "The solution to the crisis of each is care for those of all," said the Pope, "since global problems require global solu- tions." He urged the people of the world to help one another to sense people's yearning for peace. "Let us work to lay the foundations of an ever more expanded dialogue. Let us go back to gathering in inter- national peace conferences, where the theme of disarma- ment will have a central place, where our thoughts will turn to future generations! And where the enormous funds that continue to be destined to weaponry may be diverted to development, health care and nutrition." Looking once more to the east, the Pope devoted a final thought to the nearby Middle East, pointing out the linguis- tic similarity with Maltese "as if to recall the capacity of the Maltese people to generate beneficial forms of coexist- ence in a sort of conviviality of differences. This is what the Middle East needs: Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and other con- texts torn by problems and vi- olence." "May Malta, the heart of the Mediterranean, continue to foster the heartbeat of hope, care for life, acceptance of oth- ers, yearning for peace, with the help of the God whose name is peace. God bless Malta and Gozo!"

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