Pope Benedict XVI is planning to make an apostolic visit to Malta next April to commemorate 1,950 years since St. Paul’s shipwreck there, according to a press release issued by Malta’s bishops on Saturday.
The visit would be the third papal trip to the Mediterranean island nation, after Pope John Paul II’s visits in 1990 and 2001.
St. Paul was shipwrecked in the archipelago in the year 60, during his second voyage toward Rome, according to tradition. He remained on the island for three months before setting out for Sicily. Bitten by a viper, he was unaffected, and many islanders who were ill went to him and were healed.
Benedict’s visit there will also draw attention to the problem of immigration in Europe. As in Italy, thousands of illegal immigrants from Africa end up in Malta on their way to find better lives on the continent.
Vatican Radio announced that Dr. Alberto Gasbarri, in charge of preparing papal trips outside Italy, will go to Malta in October to organize the program. It follows an invitation by the bishops of Malta and Maltese President George Abela.
The Pope’s trip to Malta is the first to be planned for 2010. There has also been speculation the Holy Father will visit Great Britain next year. A well-placed source told the Register today that although there have been no concrete developments yet, “positive noises” are being made about such a visit.