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Christianity fundemental to our identity (1)

Pope Benedict XVI 's visit to our island made me ponder on my identity as a Maltese. Whenever we take pride in being Maltese we seem to link this pride to the fact that we are an independent nation, that we have our own language and culture, that our freedom and autonomy have been achieved through various struggles throughout time. We recall what our past generation went through to help us assert ourselves as a free, independent, European nation.

But what about our Christian roots? What about our Christian identity? "Be proud of your Christian vocation, cherish your religious and cultural heritage," the Pontiff encouraged us when he was among us. Were they not our Christian values that kept us hoping and struggling from generation to generation until finally, that day came when we affirmed ourselves as an independent nation? Why do we want to segregate religion - our Christian trait - from our other characteristics that make us Maltese? The sense of God and spiritual outlook in our life have been part and parcel of being Maltese. Even our national anthem that is being played whenever we want to proclaim our authenticity, is a prayer to God asking Him to guide us, protect us and keep us united.

Our true identity as Maltese has to be linked to our Christian roots. "Never allow your true identity to be compromised by indifference or relativism," Pope Benedict XVI admonishes us. Throughout time our whole life be it social, economical or political has been marked with this Christian identity. This is what makes us Maltese. This is what makes our nation autonomous and different from other nations. On his arrival at the airport Pope Benedict emphasised this trademark of our identity: "The Maltese people, enlightened for almost two mellennia by the teachings of the Gospel and continually fruitified by their Christian roots, are rightly proud of the indispensable role that the Catholic faith has played in their nation's development."

Why are we, elders, trying to pass on to our younger generation a secular and narrow vision of our society? Why is not faith the most important trait of our identity as Maltese? Our generous and altruistic nature, sense of tolerance and compassion, inclusiveness, forgiveness and other values that help us live as a nation and integrate with other nationals irrespective of their culture, colour or creed, are they not, perhaps, the result of the "good news" that St Paul preached to our forefathers when he first landed on our island 1950 years ago? "In God's plan," the Vicar of Christ reminded each one of us, "St Paul... became your father in Christian faith. Thanks to his presence among you, the Gospel of Jesus Christ took deep root and bore fruit not only in the lives of individuals, families and communities but also in the formation of Malta's national identity and its vibrant and distinctive culture."

The new challenges we are facing as a nation be they economical, social or technical have to be solved holistically and not in isolation. We cannot and should not compartmentalise our nature. Being human is being material and spiritual and when we refer to our Maltese identity our Christian roots - our spiritual dimension - should stand out. No wonder that Pope Benedict XVI, when addressing the media on his way to Malta spoke out loud and clear that "Malta... reminds us that faith is the strength that gives charity and, therefore, even imagination to respond well to these challenges".

Practically in every speech that the Pontiff addressed, he referred to our true identity. He seemed to indicate that we would be losing our true identity as Maltese were we to ignore our Christian roots. In his farewell speech before boarding the plane again the Pope pleaded: "Let me encourage you once more to cultivate a deep awareness of your identity and to embrace the responsibilities that flow from it, especially by promoting the Gospel values that will grant you a clear vision of human dignity and the common origin and destiny of mankind".

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