In the one-year period, Malta was visited by the Holy Father, Pope of Rome Francis, and By the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Without going into the depths in terms of the meaning of those visits from two prominent Church leaders we could, without doubt, say that this year was historic for Malta and its faithful citizens regardless of their traditions. But the question remains to be answered, why Malta was chosen as a destination of pilgrimage for the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch?
In the first Millennium Two Churches, the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople had been leading Christianity in the West and East for centuries hand by hand. Despite many challenges during this period, they managed to maintain Christian Unity through brotherly love and the understanding of the value of unity and cooperation of the faithful.
It is always true that great achievements require very delicate and cautious care. Without this, all achievements are destined to be lost. Great Schism (1054) was not solely an ecclesiastical split between two Churches it also meant an alienation among nations, which became more vivid in the following centuries. One of the most profound characteristic of this period was an action without dialogue and communication.
Religious otherness led people to hatred, hostility, racism, and bigotry toward each other on numerous occasions and for centuries. Unfortunately, only after an enormous suffering and destruction of two World Wars, we realized that we have no other choice but dialogue between religions and cultures which is motivated by the love of peace and leads to peace. In the following years and decades set aside political efforts to bring nations close to each, other enormous efforts were put into by the World Council of Churches to promote dialogue and inclusion between Christian communities. In these efforts leading role always had the Church of Rome in the West and The Ecumenical Patriarchate in the East. In the second half of the 20th century, numerous dialogues and conferences were held dedicated to promoting unity and brotherhood. As our Lord Jesus Christ declared: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them ” (Matthew 18:20). Through those fruitful efforts something extraordinary was born namely the Ecumenical Movement, which had its own successes.
It is always true that great achievements require very delicate and cautious care. Without this, all achievements are destined to be lost.
Throughout Europe and beyond its boundaries we are witnessing today yet unseen cooperation and support between different Christian Communities and a bright example of such development is a small but very famous Island of Malta. An Island which became a haven for the Apostle of Gentiles Paul. “The inhabitants treated us with unusual kindness. They made us all welcome by lighting a huge fire because it had started to rain, and the weather was cold “(Act.28-1) – writes Apostle Luke. Just as then Malta was hosting an Apostle whose legacy would unite nations in the person of Jesus Christ; today as well Malta has become a harbour of peaceful coexisting for many cultures and traditions and people who represent those traditions. Therefore, the significance of this unity and its potential was recognized this year by the visit of the two great Church Leaders. Seeing and experiencing the nature of the relationship between Christian communities we can confidently say that the door for Christian unity is open, and nothing can close it, ushering a new era in the Holy Church of Christ.