Visit to Malta and Sicily

Our Lady of Damascus from a Maltese Postage Stamp

H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III’s

Visit to Malta and Sicily

April 16-21, 2010

“Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:26)

In the year 60 AD, the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked on Malta. The Apostle to the Nations preached the Gospel to the Maltese, instilling a faith which the islanders have kept ever since. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI, nineteen hundred and fifty years after the arrival of Saint Paul, went to Malta to commemorate the event of the providential apostolic shipwreck.

His Beatitude, Patriarch Gregorios III was pleased to accept an invitation from the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem to visit Malta in coincidence with the papal visitation. Accompanying His Beatitude were Archbishop Joseph Absi, titular Bishop of Tarsus and Archimandrite Mtanios Haddad, Patriarchal Apocrisary in Rome and Rector of the Patriarchal Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In doing so, His Beatitude was mindful of the many links between Damascus, place of the apostle’s vision of the risen Lord and home of the Patriarchal See of Antioch, which celebrated the Year of Saint Paul in 2008-9, and the Maltese islands and Sicily, which Saint Paul also visited in the furtherance of his mission to the nations.


Friday 16 April

  • 1325 Arrival at Luqa airport to be welcomed by representatives of the Grand Priory of the Maltese Islands (Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem) and taken to the Grand Hotel Excelsior, Floriana
  • 1430 Meeting with directors of the Grand Priory
  • 1615 Visit to the Co-Cathedral of Saint John of Valletta
  • 1800 Concelebration with Archimandrite George Mifsud Montanaro, pastor of the Greek Catholic community in Malta, of the Divine Liturgy in the Greek Catholic Church of Our Lady of Damascus, (Theotokos Damaskinis) Valletta. The Patriarch presented a brochure about the church and the icon of Our Lady of Damascus in Syria.
  • 2000 Reception and dinner at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, given by the Grand Priory of the Maltese Islands, of the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem

Saturday 17 April

  • 1030 Visit to the Archbishop of Malta, Paul Cremona O.P. at the former Major Seminary, Floriana
  • 1045 Island tour organised by the Grand Priory of the Maltese Islands
  • 1600 Visit to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieħa with the Mayor of the town, Mr. Cutajar
  • 1730 By sea to Saint Paul’s Island (Selmunett) where the Mayor invited His Beatitude to unveil a commemorative plaque on the occasion of his visit
  • 1800 Visit to the Saint Paul’s Shipwreck Church, Valletta, commemorating the harmless snake’s emergence from the fire (Acts 28: 5)
  • 2100 Reception given by the Grand Commandery of the Castello at Castle Lanzun, at Mensija, San Gwann

Sunday 18 April

  • 0900 Departure from the Grand Hotel Excelsior for the Church of Saint Publius (Acts 28: 8), Floriana
  • 1000 Holy Mass presided over by H. H. Pope Benedict XVI with Patriarch Gregorios III concelebrating at the altar, Floriana, Piazzale dei Granai.
  • 1300 Lunch with Pope Benedict and Maltese bishops in the Nunciature
  • 1430 Visit to the Wignacourt Museum and the Cave of Saint Paul, Rabat
  • 1800 Viewing the sea-parade accompanying Pope Benedict’s visit to the youth of Malta
  • 1900 Leave-taking from hosts, Count Dr. the Chev. J. R. Pace and other members of the Order in Valletta
  • 2000 Departure for Valletta Airport
  • 2100 Departure for Catania, where His Beatitude was welcomed by Professor Corrado Monaca, President of Movimento Azzurro
  • 2200 Transfer to Ispica for overnight stay at the Palazzo Gambuzza Hotel
  • Visit to Sicily of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III

Monday 19 April

  • 1000 Meeting Bishop Antonio Staglianò of Noto
  • 1200 Meeting the Mayor of Ispica, Piero Rustico
  • 1315 Lunch with the Council of the Movimento Azzurro
  • 1730 Attendance, as one of several expert speakers, at Movimento Azzurro’s International Conference on “How to overcome arrested development in the Mediterranean region” at the Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation
  • 2000 Lecture by H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III entitled, “Business and politics need persons open to sharing,” with emphasis on the role of Christians in the dialogue of cultures and religions in the Middle East
  • 2030 Supper
  • 2130 Overnight stay in Ispica

Tuesday 20 April

  • 1000 Visit to Santa Maria alla Cava, with its Byzantine frescos and visit to the archaeological sites of the Parco Forza, between Syracuse and Ragusa with welcome by school children
  • 1100 Blessing at Ispica of the Saint Paul Mediterranean Oasis, with unveiling of two marble plaques by the Mayor of Ispica and Professor Monaca, commemorating H.B. Patriarch Gregorios III’s visit and the Movimento Azzurro
  • 1800 Celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major with music and chants by the Coro Mater Dei
  • 2030 Supper
  • 2130 Overnight stay in Ispica

Wednesday 21 April

  • 1030 Meetings with Paolo Urso, Bishop of Ragusa in the Bishop’s Palace and with the Provincial President, Giovanni Francesco Antoci in the Provincial Palace
  • 1100 Meeting with the Prefect of Ragusa, Dr. Francesca Cannizzo and the provincial authorities, with speeches from Prefect and Patriarch and signing the Golden (distinguished visitors’ )Book
  • 1300 Lunch at the Prefecture
  • 1530 Visit to Ragusa/Ibla and to the shrine of Saint George
  • 1900 Celebration of Vespers in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist presided over by Bishop Paolo Urso with a homily by His Beatitude
  • 2045 Supper at Ibla with the Prefect, President and Bishop and His Beatitude’s delegation (who were present at all the above-mentioned visits)
  • 2200 Final overnight stay at Ispica at the Palazzo Gambuzza Hotel

Thursday, 22 April

  • 0930 Departure for Catania
  • 1200 Departure for Rome
  • 1315 Arrival in Rome

Notes by Patriarch Gregorios III

Translation from the French and Italian V.C.