Maltese people have launched a petition to ask that country’s nuncio not to let lame duck Prime Minister Joseph Muscat meet with Pope Francis.

Driving the news

In a televised address December 1, Muscat announced he was resigning as Prime Minister.

The Labour politician said he would hold off on the leadership handover until January – when a new party leader will be elected – and then resign the prime ministership “in the days after” that.

Muscat’s announcement came hours after authorities arrested Malta’s richest man, property and gambling tycoon Yorgen Fenech, in connection with the 2017 murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Subsequent journalistic and police work linked Fenech to PM Muscat’s chief-of-staff, Keith Schembri, who was also arrested but later released.

Schembri has resigned his post, but lawyers for Fenech say there is material linking the politician to the alleged conspiracy to kill Caruana Galizia.

In his TV address, PM Muscat said that “justice is being done”.

“And I will see that justice is for everyone. Investigations are not complete. No one is above justice”, Muscat pledged.

Go deeper

Many Maltese, however, are not content with Muscat’s promise to step aside only in January.

Starting with Caruana Galizia’s family, who accused Muscat and his office of having had “a hand in our mother and wife’s assassination” and of seeking to cover up the crime for two years.

“Muscat has delayed his resignation in an attempt to continue protecting himself and Schembri. There is no alternative explanation”, said the journalist’s family.

“His continued tenure as prime minister is intolerable to anyone who cares about justice. His role in the investigation into our wife and mother’s assassination is unlawful.

“Until he resigns, we will use all legal remedies to ensure Muscat has no further involvement in the investigation and criminal proceedings, other than as a possible suspect”.

Why it matters

In the same critical line as Caruana Galizia’s family, a petition has been circulating in Malta to prevent PM Muscat travelling to the Vatican to meet the Pope December 7.

The petition was begun by university lecturers and has been carried by outlets such as The Malta Independent or Lovin’ Malta, this last accusing Muscat of seeking to absolve his sins by visiting Francis.

The signatories to the petition, addressed to Nuncio Apostólico in Malta Alessandro D’Errico, express their “dismay” that the PM is scheduled to meet the pontiff “at a time when, following the revelation of criminal activity at the highest levels of power in our land, the calls for his resignation are flowing in from many diverse quarters, not least from European Union institutions and the Council of Europe”.

“We are academics dedicated to excellence in teaching and research in our diverse fields and we have at heart the democratic process in our country and the rule of law to ensure justice for all”, the petitioners continue.

“In our view it is totally unwise, and pastorally undesirable, to involve the Holy Father in a propaganda exercise in an attempt to postpone an inevitable outcome, given the serious and grave nature of the accusations and allegations which are plaguing the present Administration of our country in full view of local and world media”.

The Malta Independent notes that other similar messages are doing the rounds on social media, with one such post in the wake of the Caruana Galizia revelations reading: “My country is no longer a democracy. #MaltaBlackFriday”.

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