Up to the point of writing, it is not known whether the pope’s visit will happen just a few days after the general elections or a few weeks before.

This notwithstanding, we are certain the pope is more than capable of delivering his message in spite of the mounting political temperature.

The Church in Malta has a millennian tradition, but the state of Christianity is in a crisis. Basic Christian and human values no longer sufficiently underpin and inspire our economic, cultural, social and political structures or the personal choices of many.

Fortunately, the vast and radical social teachings of Pope Francis present an immense repertoire from which he could select the best possible message to goad our collective conscience and help our people overcome this crisis of values.

The prophetic choice of visiting the migrants at Ħal Far before returning to the Vatican is a clear indication of at least one topic of the papal addresses.

This was already on the cards for the original date on which the visit had been planned. When the Vatican was faced by some security concerns expressed by local authorities, the answer was that this visit was a must.

Truth be told, one could not expect anything less from a pope whose first visit outside of the Vatican was to Lampedusa. Pope Francis is expected to address head-on the challenges that Malta and other frontline states of the EU are faced with.

Francis will certainly take a totally different position to those who resort to xenophobia and siege mentality. Malta is full up, they say, to those migrants arriving on our shores on rickety boats. He will surely remind us of what he wrote in Fratelli Tutti: “We need to welcome, promote, protect and integrate those who come in search of better lives.” He will sternly deliver a reminder to those, including our government, who support pushbacks to Libya.

In July 2020 he said: “You cannot imagine the hell that people live there in those lagers of detention [in Libya]. How can we fail to hear the desperate cry of so many brothers and sisters who prefer to face a stormy sea rather than die slowly in Libyan detention camps, places of torture and ignoble slavery?”

The pope has also expressed regular, harsh condemnation of corruption. So one would expect that his aides have briefed him well that this is a country mired in it.

Would he repeat here what he said during a November 2013 homily? That the corrupt should be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea?

In March 2015, Pope Francis visited Scampia, an impoverished neighbourhood close to Naples. He did not mince his words: “A corrupt society stinks! A Christian who allows corruption to enter is not a Christian, they stink! Got it?”

As for another blight on Malta – environmental degradation – the pope of Laudato Sì will not need aides to have briefed him. He can take in the views when landing. Apt here would be his February 22, 2017 address when he described greed and selfishness as the corrupters of God’s creation.

It is this greed that is ruining our country.

The Maltese will undoubtedly welcome the pope enthusiastically, even if there has been a noticeable decline in the Church’s influence. But are they ready to similarly embrace the radical message on hopes he will deliver with his accustomed clarity?

This would surely be a message which can help save us from the downward trend.

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