Pope Francis has urged Catholics to welcome migrants as the Maltese had first welcome St Paul.
Speaking during his General Audience on Wednesday, the Pope referred to the passage in the Acts of the Apostles in which St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta.
St Paul is said to have been shipwrecked on Malta some 1,960 years ago in 60AD.
Pope Francis noted the hospitality the "people of Malta and Gozo" had reserved for the shipwrecked St Paul and likened his plight to that of migrants who brave the treacherous Mediterranean crossing today.
"In contrast to the brutality of rough seas, St Paul was welcomed with the rare humanity of the island's inhabitants," he said. St Paul and his companions were given shelter from the rain, food, and fire to keep warm.
“Today, the sea on which Paul and his companions were shipwrecked is, once again, a dangerous place for the lives of other sailors. All over the world migrant men and women face risky voyages to escape violence, to escape war, to escape poverty,” he said.
The number of migrants crossing the Central Mediterranean from Libya has declined dramatically over the past few years, from almost 120,000 migrants in 2017 to around 23,000 in 2018. That said, the central Mediterranean route remains among the most dangerous.
Pope Francis said that, just as St Paul and his companions did, travellers experience indifference; and the hostility of unforgiving conditions.
“Many times they don't allow them to dock in ports,” he said.
The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “hospitality”.
God’s love, the Pope said, is reflected through considerate gestures.
Pope Francis urged the faithful to “work together to practice hospitality, especially towards those whose lives are most vulnerable”.