oldest Christian communities
By Chuck Holton - CBN
The tiny island of Malta in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has a rich history as one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.
It all started with a shipwreck, as told in the book of Acts, about 60 AD while the apostle Paul was enroute to Rome.
Boarding an Alexandrian grain freighter on the isle of Crete, a fierce Nor'easter blew the ship off course. It looked like all was lost.
"On the fourteenth night, they were still being driven across the Adriatic sea when the sailors sensed land approaching," said Douglas Gresham, producer of Chronicles of Narnia and a resident of Malta.
"They took soundings and found that the land was 120 feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found that it was 90 feet deep. Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, the sailors dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for daylight."
"When daylight came, they did not recognize the land. But they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could," he continued. "Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea."
With the storm still raging, the ship struck a sandbar, and began to break apart. With the vessel and her cargo a total loss, the nearly 300 men on board swam for their lives. Miraculously, everyone survived.
"Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta," Gresham explained of the sailors experience.
And so began a Christian influence in Malta that has continued down through the centuries. Today, it is the most religious nation in Europe -- 98 percent of its citizens are members of the Catholic Church.
Saint Paul is memorialized throughout the island, no where more than in Saint Paul's bay, where tourists come to visit the Shipwreck Cathedral, and see the spot where most believe Paul's ship ran aground nearly 2,000 years ago.