(Source: CD/Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ, Vatican News)
Pope Francis’ visit to Malta has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Pope’s apostolic journey to the Mediterranean island nation was previously scheduled for 31 May.
The Director of the Holy See Press office, Matteo Bruni made the announcement on 23 March.
“Due to the ongoing world situation, and in agreement with authorities and the local Church, the previously announced apostolic visit to Malta has been postponed to a later date to be determined,” reads the message.
The apostolic visit, scheduled to coincide with the feast of Pentecost, was to be the first international journey of the Pope in 2020.
The visit – which has been postponed, not cancelled – will eventually include a stop in Gozo, one of the twenty-one Islands that make up the Maltese archipelago.
The theme of the apostolic journey is: “They showed us unusual kindness.”
It is meant to highlight the plight of the migrants who traverse the Mediterranean toward Europe, and be a source of encouragement for new evangelization in the island nation.
The theme references the hospitality shown to St. Paul by the Maltese when a 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. Pope Benedict XVI also visited in 2010. Pope St. John Paul II beatified George Preca, who became Malta’s first Saint in 2007.