The Popes at the Wignacourt: Pope Benedict XVI

Following in Pope John Paul II’s footsteps, Pope Benedict XVI visited Malta in April 2010. His short stay was marked by his many visits to various locations around the island, with one of the most important being his pilgrimage to St Paul’s Grotto. 

Pope Benedict XVI prays inside St Paul's Grotto in Rabat, outside Valletta

Pope Benedict XVI at St Paul’s Grotto in Rabat

When on 10 February 2010 Archbishop Paul Cremona announced that Pope Benedict XVI was coming to Malta for two days, devotees around the island rejoiced. After much preparation and numerous controversies – the most memorable being the one surrounding Paul Vella’s ‘Colonna Mediterranea’ in Luqa – Pope Benedict XVI became the second man to ever visit Malta in his authority as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Over the two days, his Holiness visited many locations around Malta and had meetings with the highest-ranking officials of the island. He was greeted by children with flowers when he visited the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta, and a crowd of around 30,000 people flocked to the Floriana Granaries to take part in a mass concelebrated by the Pope himself.

Because his Holiness’s visit to Malta coincided with the 1950th anniversary of St Paul’s Shipwreck, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the St Paul’s Grotto was an emotional and unique occasion. To mark the event, Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech, which addressed the whole Maltese population and outlined St Paul’s Grotto’s importance both for Christianity in Malta as well as for Christianity as a whole.

“My pilgrimage to Malta has begun with a moment of silent prayer at the Grotto of Saint Paul, who first brought the faith to these islands,” said Pope Benedict. “I have come in the footsteps of those countless pilgrims down the centuries who have prayed in this holy place, entrusting themselves, their families and the welfare of this nation to the intercession of the Apostle of the Gentiles. I rejoice to be at last in your midst and I greet all of you with great affection in the Lord!”

At the end of his visit at St Paul’s Grotto, Pope Benedict XVI presented Con. Louis Saban with a sanctuary lamp for St Paul’s Collegiate Church in Rabat. The lamp depicts four scenes from St Paul’s life: his conversion on the road to Damascus, the saint healing the sick in Malta, his shipwreck and his martyrdom.

This trip would sadly be Pope Benedict XVI’s first and last one to the island, as on 28 February 2013, he abdicated the Holy See and Pope Francis I ascended the Papacy. Nevertheless, Benedict XVI’s trip has left a deep impact on Malta’s Roman Catholic society, much more so for the fact that it proved that the island’s population still had Christianity at its core.

For more information on the Wignacourt Museum and the St Paul’s Grotto, you can contact us on +356 2749 4905 or at