Every year on the 18th January we start the Week for Prayer of Christian Unity. For us Maltese, this year is a very special year because it was our ecumenical partners on these islands and the Archdiocese of Malta that were actually invited by the authorities organising this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to prepare the prayers and the biblical quotes and passages that would lead Christians around the world on this important yearly commitment for prayer for Christian Unity.
The theme chosen by our friends is from Chapter 28:2 of Acts of the Apostles. They showed us unusual kindness. The verse refers to the inhabitants of the island of Malta, who welcomed Paul the Apostle and his colleagues on the ship that was taking them to Rome, a ship that was shipwrecked on the island 2,000 years ago.
We Maltese are very proud of the first ten verses of the Acts of the Apostles because Luke talks in a very important way on the inhabitants of the islands – their kindness, their generosity, their hospitality – I think this message is also important for ecumenical relationships. We need to take care of each other. We need also to foster the spirit of generous welcome of each other. Listening is part of this welcoming; also accompanying each other, supporting each other, especially when we need to use and adopt a common front in order to increase hospitality of refugees, hospitality of the poor and the marginalised in today’s world.
We Christians need to be witnesses to the generous hospitality, which the Maltese actually accorded and gave to the Apostle Paul and the other people shipwrecked on the islands. I was privileged to have an audience with Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul in the month of November – I would really like to extend my gratitude to his holiness Patriarch Bartholomew for his great hospitality. I hope that we will be able to greet him on the islands in this year 2020 and extend my heartfelt gratitude to our ecumenical partners on the islands, members of different Orthodox churches, the Anglican communion and so many other Christian brethren. Let’s hope that this year brings us to a commitment to this generous hospitality which is at the heart of ecumenism.