AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
VALLETTA, Malta (AP) -The VALLETTA, Malta (AP) – Pope Francis requested on Sunday the end to this “sacrilegious” conflict in Ukraine and for the entire world to show mercy to refugees , as he ended the two-day visit to Malta which was marked by his concern about the devastation caused by Russia’s incursion.
“May we remain unwavering in praying and providing assistance to those who are suffering,” Francis said at the conclusion of an Mass in Valletta which is the capital of Malta which attracted around 20,000 people, with some of them waving Ukrainian flags.
Further Ukrainian flags welcomed him at an migrant shelter, and Ukrainian protesters chanted “Save Our Children!” and “Close the skies across Ukraine!”
Francis has made use of his two-day trip to Malta to reiterate his plea to Europe to show compassion for potential refugees crossing through the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. The Pope has extended his message to express his appreciation for the warm welcome Europe has extended to Ukrainian refugees seeking refuge from the Russian war , and hopes that the same kind of generosity will be extended to all.
Although it was a short trip, the journey was particularly exhausting for the pontiff who is 85 years old who is suffering from a constant strain of the ligament on his left knee. He was repeatedly unable to get up from his chair. His stiff gait caused by sciatica became so intense that he often required the assistance of an aid.
Francis began his second and last day of his stay in Malta with a visit to his favorite place, the Grotto of St. Paul in Rabat which is in which Paul the Apostle Paul resided in after being turned overboard by a ship Malta on his way to Rome during AD 60. According to the Bible story of the time that the Maltese inhabitants displayed Paul extraordinary kindness and he reacted by preaching and healing by as well as introducing Christianity in the Maltese islands.
Francis mentioned the warm reception Malta offered Christ’s shipwrecked disciple. He also met with migrants recently arriving from Africa who hired smugglers try and reach Europe to avoid conflict and war. He assured the migrants the migrants that “could be any among us.”
“It is my dream this is how Malta will treat all who arrive on its shores, giving them the most secure harbor'” he said.
Malta has been for years at the center of European debate on refugee policies. The nation with a half-million inhabitants is often criticized by human rights groups for not letting rescue ships dock in its ports. The government says it has one of Europe’s top rates for processing asylum requests for first-time applicants in relation to the number of people living there, and claims that other, larger European countries must do more to ease the burden.
This week the German aid group demanded Malta to accept the 106 migrants who were rescued off Libya. Malta did not agree and on the following day the city’s mayor, Palermo, Sicily, said that the city was ready to welcome the migrants.
While Francis has praise Malta’s response in general however, some of the migrants who visited the Peace Lab social service center claimed that they had waited for several years for asylum claims to be reviewed and Malta does not do enough to make them feel welcome.
“I require identification cards,” stated Agyei Kwasi Batig Agyei Kwasi Batig, an Ghanaian who has lived in Malta for the past eight years. “In Europe, if you do not have an ID card you are in trouble. In order to do anything, you’ll need documents.”
Francis’ Mass, his largest celebration in Malta attracted around 20,000 people. The crowd clapped as Francis asked the faithful to pray the final prayer to “think of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the victimized Ukraine that is still being bombarded by this blatant conflict.”
One of the people in the crowd included Alina Shcherbyna who is a 25-year-old Ukrainian that arrived to Malta just a few days in the past after fleeing from her bombed-out home in Dnipro in Ukraine. She left behind her parents, both of whom are doctors.
A Orthodox Christian, she said she attended the Mass to be with her Maltese host family who brought her in following a solo trip on a bus and train which took her to Poland, Germany and the Netherlands before flying to Malta. Wearing Ukrainian flags as well as Vatican Flags Shcherbyna declared that she was going to ask Pope Francis as well as the entire world to pray for Ukraine and Ukraine, adding that she can’t believe what’s occurred in just a couple of days.
“At school, we were learning lots of things concerning and the Second World War, about bomb shelters, and the disaster that occurred that we thought was not possible in our current time. We believed that it ended in 1945, and that was the end of it. However, now it’s shocking for us all,” she said.
An additional Ukrainian Orthodox in the crowd, Margaryta Gromova, fled in the last few days to Kyiv as she thanked Francis for his speech.
“He is able to speak out about the issue, and he could ask God for help,” the woman said. “We can feel the connection with the other local people, and the world over, as we require help, such as moral support and all the support from God right now.”
Pope prays for a peaceful the end of the’sacrilegious’ war Refugees are welcomed