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MaltaPost Pope Benedict XVI Commemorative stamp set

 - Sunday, 18 April 2010, 00:00 , by Carmel G. Bonavia

This year Malta is commemorating the 1,950th anniversary of the coming of St Paul to our Island in the year 60AD, when the Apostle was being escorted to Rome as a prisoner to appear before Caesar. His unscheduled landing in Malta is described in a lively first-hand account by St Luke in chapters 27 and 28 of the Acts of the Apostles.

Pope Benedict XVI is visiting Malta this weekend and MaltaPost is issuing the following philatelic products bearing the image of the Pope Benedict XVI: A Stamp Set – ‘Papal Visit 2010’; a Miniature sheet; Occasion Card; Silver Stamp Replica; Commemorative Folder and four different impressions to commemorate this significant occasion.

The miniature sheet, with one stamp having the denomination of €3, depicts the image of Pope Benedict XVI. The stamp is presented with an aerial view of Malta as a background, together with the official logo of the Pope’s visit and the image of St Paul, while the occasion card No. 24 in the series that complement this set also bears the image of Pope Benedict XVI. The silver replica stamp is the third limited edition of silver stamp replicas, following the San Gorg Preca and St Paul’s silver stamp replicas. The silver stamp is struck in 99.9 per cent fine silver and is being issued in brilliant uncirculated (proof-like) condition weighing 20 grammes and measuring 45mm x 30mm. Each stamp is individually numbered and the issue is limited to a maximum of 2,000 pieces. It is presented in an elegant presentation box with a certificate of authenticity. To complement the silver stamp replica, the Philatelic Bureau has issued a limited edition of a numbered commemorative folder including the ‘Papal Visit 2010’ stamp set. These commemorative folders can be reserved to allow collectors to match the folder with the numbered silver replica order. The Philatelic Bureau is also issuing three different special hand stamps depicting the official logo of the Pope’s visit, which will be used on Saturday, 17 April and Sunday, 18 April respectively.

St Paul’s shipwreck on Maltese shores has been featured on Maltese stamps since 1889 and this is believed to be the first Pauline stamp in the world. In recent times, Popes inspired by the missionary spirit of St Paul have gone on pilgrimages and pastoral visits to various parts of the world. During his 27 years as Pope, John Paul II, as universal Pastor between 1978 and 2005, travelled to 104 countries outside Italy, as well as visiting 160 Italian towns and cities. From 25 to 27 May 1990 he visited Malta, meeting huge crowds from all strata of Maltese society.

To commemorate this first visit of a Pope to Malta, a set of two stamps and a miniature sheet was issued on 25 May 1990, featuring St Paul and Pope John Paul II. The stamps were designed by the well-known Maltese coin and medal engraver Noel Galea Bason, based on his two bronze bas-reliefs of the subject.

Quite unexpectedly, Pope John Paul II was in Malta again for a couple of hours during a stopover at Luqa Airport while on his way to Tanzania on 1 September 1990. A special postmark commemorated this event.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II was on a pilgrimage “In the Footsteps of St Paul” that took him to Greece, Syria and Malta. His Holiness was with us on 8 and 9 May, when he declared the beatification of Dun Gorg Preca, Sister Adeodata Pisani and Nazju Falzon. To commemorate this occasion, a set of two stamps and a miniature sheet, designed by Joe Mizzi, were issued on 4 May 2001.

The Maltese feel a special bond with Pope Benedict XVI as, on 23 February 2007, he presided over a Public Consistory that approved the canonisation of Blessed Gorg Preca and officiated at his canonisation in St Peter’s Square on 3 June of that year.

To commemorate this occasion, MaltaPost issued a two-stamp set showing identical images of Dun Gorg against a background of Blata l-Bajda chapel of the Society of Christian Doctrine headquarters. With this set, MaltaPost issued the first ever silver replica stamp bearing the image of the San Gorg Preca Lm1/€2.33 stamp. A replica in gold, bearing the same image, was presented to Pope Benedict XVI on 4 May 2007 by Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, on the initiative of Gozo Bishop Mario Grech.

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