Dear Colleagues, Directors, Foreign and Local Participants,

It is the pleasure of Aid to the Church in Need (Malta) to welcome you all in Malta  where St. Paul was shipwrecked in AD 60. This is recorded in Chapter 28 of the Acts of the Apostles.

The leaders of Aid to the Church in Need International, with the full cooperation of Aid to the Church in Need in Malta, chose Malta for this International Conference – Can Christianity Survive Persecution ?- because,  as the late Pope, now St John Paul II, had told the Maltese people when he visited Malta in 2001 “Malta has a unique vocation to be the builder of bridges between the peoples of the Mediterranean basin, and a bridge between Africa and Europe.”

He then added “The future of peace in the world depends on strengthening dialogue and understanding between cultures and religions.”

Then he exhorted the Maltese people, and I quote, “for a renewal of faith, to defend life, and to promote respect for the dignity of every human being; … to safeguard the family and work….and to continue the national and international commitment of the Maltese people for the promotion of freedom, justice and peace.

These are the bridges of values on which Aid to Church in Need, since 1947, has been striving to accomplish.

During this Conference we will hear, and have first hand information on this mission from prominent and leading Christian leaders…and witnesses from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Nigeria and Algiers.

Sisters Mary Euphrasia, Founder of the Good Shepherd Sisters said:

“One person is more valuable than the world”… because every person was created in the image and likeness of God… with dignity.

Thus every person has the right to work, form a family and to live in peace.

Aid to the Church in Need, together with the support of its benefactors, works in favour of persecuted and oppressed Christians who are continually suffering for their Faith in various countries with thousands of them having to flee their own country… with others facing certain death.

The loss of values leads to many forms of violence. This is a problem which is being experienced in many parts of the world.  It is a modern syndrome.

Notwithstanding this development Lord Jonathan Sacks, the eminent British and Commonwealth scholar says “There ARE values which we share and which bindus together as a society” but, as we know, society is losing some of its fundamental values.

God gave the great gift of life to all, irrespective of class, race and religion.

Every man should be respected… without any prejudice… in order to be able to live his life with dignity. I am sure that Aid to the Church in Need will continue with its noble mission to help all in times of difficulty.

My appeal goes to all here today and to all people of goodwill to work assiduously to help all those who are in need, especially persecuted and oppressed Christians in  so many parts of the world.

For this purpose all of us have to pray more, create awareness and work, both on national and international level, in favour of our brothers and sisters and help them in their essential needs. We have to work for an international order built on genuine respect for the rule of law, on dialogue and solidarity.

I wish to thank His Excellency Mgr. Aldo Cavalli, Apostolic Nuncio to Malta, for his full cooperation and assistance in the preparation of this International Conference in Malta.

In your folder you will find a copy of the message sent by Ms. Irina Bokova, Director – General of UNESCO.

We greatly appreciate her message and wish to thank her for it. Surely the points she madeare food for thought for all of us.

May I take the opportunity to thank His Eminence Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, President of ACN International; the Maltese Ecclesiastical Authorities; Baron Johannes Freiherr Heereman, Executive President of ACN; all ACN Executive Committee members and  Neville Kyrke Smith, ACN UK Director, for their trust in me, and my colleagues in Malta, to be part of the ACN Foundation.