“Joy and hope – is there space for these in our life today?” – this was the theme of Mariapoli 2023, which took place at the Seabank Hotel in Mellieħa Bay, Malta, during 17-19 March.
The Focolare Movement organises Mariapolis gatherings every year all around the world. The participants are invited to experience for a few days what it’s like to live together as a community by putting the Gospel into practice.
One might say: who nowadays dares to talk about joy and hope in a world filled with so much trouble: wars, natural disasters, hunger, poverty, heartbreak, injustice…?
Talking about joy and hope today is a challenge, but it is a challenge that also translates into an opportunity, and I think that was the experience of Mariapolis 2023 for the 250 people who took part in it, which included some people from Pakistan, the Philippines and from Africa.
Since the early afternoon, Friday March 17, families with children, teenagers, adults and the elderly began to gather in the hotel foyer. People who are well acquainted with the Focolare were happy to find themselves together again for this experience, which had not been held for two years due to Covid-19, while others who came to Mariapolis for the first time, very quickly felt welcomed. There was an air of anticipation among everyone right from the start!
The Mariapolis program started with a mass, led by His Excellency Archbishop Savio Tai-Fai, the Apostolic Nuncio for Malta. His greeting in Maltese stole many hearts. Her Excellency, President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca together with her husband, were also present at the opening of this Mariapoli. After the Mass, the message that Margaret Karram, President of the Focolare, sent to Pope Francis on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his Pontificate was read out.
The program for the rest of Mariapolis was all focused on hope and joy, and offered us an opportunity to stop and reflect, to discover that which is beautiful and positive, and to be strengthened in the energy needed to believe and hope.
The words full of wisdom of Mr Joseph Bonnici, an associate member of the MUSEUM Society, who gave a very uplifting talk about hope, the beautiful and valuable experiences of people coming from various areas of life, the music and songs which imparted a message that moved our hearts, the moments of sharing, even during various workshops, the enthusiastic participation of the young people and the presence of children … all helped to create a wonderful atmosphere, an atmosphere of a family. But above all they were an opportunity to discover or rediscover that “in all the thorns of life … life emerges, in all its determinaton, never defeated, and that “Each day in our world beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history.” (Pope Francis: Evangelii Gaudium n. 276).
During a walk in the countryside on the last day of Mariapolis, we had the opportunity to not only admire the beauty of nature, with the green pastures on one side and the calm sea on the other, but also to get to know each other more. Along the way I had the chance to talk to a person I didn’t know before. She shared with me some experiences that’s she’s living and I could appreciate how much good is done in silence, and how much we can truly be witnesses of hope and joy.
The Mariapolis came to an end with a concelebrated mass led by Msgr. Joseph Galea Curmi, Auxiliary Bishop His presence among us was a blessing that continued to instill that sense of one Church which is on the journey, a journey of hope and joy, while preparing for the Jubilee 2025, for which Pope Francis chose the theme “Pilgrims of Hope”.
The air of expectation that was there at the beginning was brought to fulfilment: I breathed a strong sense of community, of hope and joy. I lived a powerful experience of God’s love which filled me with new courage and enthusiasm. I realised that we have received a treasure trove of life and love which never deceives us, and I felt more determined than ever before to persevere with others on this journey which is open to a future of hope, unity and peace. In my heart I thanked Jesus for having given to me this wonderful experience.
Anna Caruana Colombo
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