In Malta, hardly any road can be driven on normally at the moment. Closures, detours, construction works. Huge posters on the side of the road reveal the reason: On 17. and 18. April comes Pope Benedict XVI. to Malta. Livia Leykauf has already had a look around on site.
By then, the biggest potholes and bumps should have been removed – at least temporarily. But it is not only the roads that are bustling with activity. The Pope visits the Grotto of St. Paul in Rabat. For weeks, carpets have been laid, chandeliers cleaned, walls painted and works of art polished in the church. Everything must shine when the pope arrives.
Full of anticipation Sexton Mario Scicluna, who also serves as janitor, restorer and guide, is full of anticipation: "It is a lot of work during the preparation, but to see the Pope up close rewards everything."Residents and shopkeepers follow the events with curiosity. "Every day someone from the police or television comes. They discuss how to regulate traffic, how to ensure safety and where best to position the cameras," reports Doreen Cutajar, the wife of the master baker. "We will probably not sell more sweets than usual for the Pope's visit, but of course I will open the store. Behind my sales counter I have a clear view of the Pope." While before Easter the signs of the Pope's visit were still rather hidden, Malta is now as if transformed. Flags in Vatican colors fly on many buildings. The kiosk vendor at the bus station in Valletta has expanded his assortment and, in addition to the usual souvenirs, he now sells paper flags in yellow and white. They are proving to be big sellers everywhere on the island. Whether the pennants on their thin plastic poles will last very long is uncertain. But the Pope comes to Malta only for a good 24 hours.
Mass is the highlight A highlight for the Maltese is a mass with the Pope in Floriana near the capital Valletta. For this purpose, about 50.000 people expected. The construction work for the stage has been going on for weeks. It must be stable and at the same time completely dismountable, so that no damage occurs on the historically important square where the mass is celebrated. Most of the materials used are recyclable. The Times of Malta reports that the pope sits on a "throne made of cardboard" during Mass. The environmental and cost aspects play a special role in the Pope's visit to Malta. Therefore, the local church has also come up with something special for the floral decorations. Flower sponsors are being sought through newspaper advertisements. Hundreds of flower sticks are to adorn the altar: "You say which plant you would like to finance and then after Mass you can take it home together with the pot. As a living souvenir of the Pope's visit," explains a telephone operator from the Archdiocese of Malta. "It's the first day of the action, so you still have almost free choice." He does not yet seem to be completely familiar with the offer: "If I read correctly, this is a hydrangea. White. And these are the dark yellow begonias – best you come by and see for yourself." You can already listen to the songs that will be sung at Mass and at the Pope's meeting with young people. Under popeyouthchoir.org you can find text and music to play and download. The songs are only suitable to a limited extent for re-singing in our wider circles. "Missierna, Li inti fis-smewwiet. Jitqaddes l-isem tieghek" is the beginning of the Lord's Prayer in Maltese. Whether Pope Benedict XVI. will formulate a greeting in the national language?