Malta is the largest island in the archipelago that shares its name. It is located in the central Mediterranean Sea between Sicily, Tunisia and Libya. It was the head of the Council of the European Union for the first time in its history in 2017.
The island, whose symbol is the eight-cusped cross, signifying the eight Beatitudes, pertaining to the Knights of Malta, is closely situated to the tragedies that occur daily in the blue tomb that the Mediterranean Sea has become for those crossing between Africa, the Middle East and Europe in a desperate search for a new chance at life. On one of its other shores another shipwreck had found safe port after fourteen days adrift. One of the passengers was Saint Paul on his way back to Rome in around AD 60. According to tradition the ship carrying him and another 264 passengers was sunk by a storm, and everyone on board swam to shore. After some time he was invited to stay at the house of Publius, the Roman governor of the islands, whose father Paul cured of a serious flu. The governor converted to Christianity and became the first bishop of Malta.
Europe’s Christian roots were the focus of discussion in Malta’s capital of Valletta on the 7th and 8th of May during a forum titled Towards a Europe of Hope, Healing and Hospitality. The goal of the forum, which is held each year by the European Union in the country of the presidency, is the promotion of dialogue according to the foundational inspiration of Robert Schuman. On the first day, after the opening events at the Anglican Cathedral, there was an artistic performance and a prayer titled “Hope”. Then a procession led through the streets of Valletta to the Roman Catholic Co-Cathedral of Saint John where some words were offered by Archbishop Scicluna and Maria Voce. The Focolare president offered a reflection on “Healing and Reconciliation”.
On the anniversary of that “community of peoples” that Schuman envisioned in 1950, proposing the historic coal and steel community to avoid all forms of war between France, Germany and any country who would later join the community, Maria Voce asked what the inspirational spark might have been behind such an extraordinary gesture that was intended to bring reconciliation to populations overwhelmed by the most horrible conflicts ever seen up until then. Who had inspired Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi – all Christian statesmen who are considered the founding fathers of Europe? The answer is obvious: “We want to think that the ideas and the strength to build Europe came from God who had shown his love for all people by suffering an infamous and atrocious death, God had identified with all the pains of humanity, including the ones deriving from violence and wars.”
With regard to the culture that could emerge when there is profound reconciliation, Maria Voce quoted Chiara Lubich: “Every person can have a contribution to give – in any field: science, art, politics, communications, and so on. And they will be more efficacious if they work together with others who are united in the name of Christ: it is the continuation of the Incarnation and, it is in this way, that what could be called a culture of the Resurrection spreads through the world.” But for this to happen, “a path towards full and visible communion is asked of us, Christians, knowing that this will be decisive for the unity of Europe and for serving humanity better.”
Recently, this path began to unfold further stages, in Lund, Sweden, Lesbos, Greece, and Cuba. “In a multi-cultural and multi-religious Europe there is need for a new capacity to dialogue, dialogue that can be based on the Golden Rule that is found in every religion on earth.” How significant to be saying these things precisely in the safe port of Malta in the midst of the Mediterranean, in the hope that this blue tomb will again become “Mare Nostrum” where Europe, Africa and the Middle East can find a peaceful route.