Pope in Malta to pray, meet authorities and migrants
By Vatican News staff reporter
Pope Francis’ tight schedule visit to Malta on April 2 and 3 will be marked by a stop at St Paul’s Grotto, commemorating the shipwreck of the 'Apostle of the peoples' in the island; and a meeting with refugees, as well as moment’s of prayer and meetings with civil authorities.
Meetings with Authorities
The Holy Father is expected to leave from the International Airport of Rome-Fiumicino at 8.30 on Saturday, 1 April, and is scheduled to arrive at Malta International Airport at 10.00.
After the Welcome Ceremony, at 10.50 am, he will pay a courtesy visit to the President of the Republic of Malta, George William Vella in the "Ambassadors' Chamber" of the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta, followed by a meeting with Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela in the "Pages' Chamber" at 11.35. At 11.50, he will address the Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps in the "Grand Council Chamber" in the same building.
Praying in Gozo
After meeting with the authorities, at 3.50 pm the Pontiff will leave La Valletta on a catamaran directed to Gozo, the second Maltese island, where he is expected to arrive at 5.00 pm. There he will preside over a prayer meeting at the National Shrine of “Ta' Pinu” and will give a homily.
At 6.45 pm he will board the ferry in the Port of Mgarr headed back to the island of Malta. After arriving at the Port of Cirkewwa he will transfer to the Apostolic Nunciature, which will be his residence during his stay.
The second day of the visit, Sunday, April 3, will begin at 7.45 a.m. with a private meeting with the members of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), in the Nunciature of Rabat.
The visit to the Grotto of St. Paul
At 8.30 Pope Francis will then visit the Grotto of St. Paul in the Basilica of Rabat, where he will stop for a moment of prayer, followed at 10.15 by Mass at the Granaries in Floriana, where the Holy Father will give a homily, and which will conclude with the Angelus prayer.
The afternoon will be focused on migrants: at 4.45 pm, Pope Francis will meet a group of refugees at the “Giovanni XXIII Peace Lab” Center for Migrants in Hal Far where he will deliver a speech.
This will be the last appointment of the visit, after which Pope Francis will transfer to Malta International Airport for the Farewell Ceremony, at 5.50 pm. Departure for Rome is scheduled at 6.15 pm, landing in Rome-Fiumicino Airport at 7.40 pm.
The motto and theme of the journey
The theme of the Apostolic Journey is: “They showed us unusual kindness,” taken from Acts 28:2. It is meant to highlight the plight of the migrants who cross the Mediterranean toward Europe, and to be a source of encouragement for a new evangelization in the island nation.
The passage references the hospitality shown to St. Paul by the Maltese people when the ship carrying him to Rome was shipwrecked there in 60 AD.
Two previous Popes have made apostolic visits to Malta: Pope St. John Paul II visited Malta in 1990 and 2001, while Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2010.