President invites Pope Francis to visit Malta during EU presidency

Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca has invited the Pontiff to visit Malta during the six-month Presidency of the European Council and support the island’s call for a lasting humanitarian solution to migration

The President has invited Pope Francis to Malta (Photo: Clifton Fenech/DOI)
The President has invited Pope Francis to Malta (Photo: Clifton Fenech/DOI)

Pope Francis has turned 80, and whilst he spent the morning receiving messages of congratulations from around the world and sharing breakfast with eight homeless people, he continued his day with meetings, including one with Maltese President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

The meeting comes ahead of Malta’s six-month stint at the helm of the European Council, with the President taking the opportunity to invite the Pontiff to the island during the EU presidency.

During the Presidency, Malta will be pushing forward the issue of migration, hoping to unite Europe and follow its tradition of "bridge builder". Coleiro Preca, who in her Republic Day speech indicted the European deportation of long-term migrants, urged Pope Francis to give his support in finding lasting humanitarian solutions to irregular migration.

According to a statement released by the Office of the President, Coleiro Preca urged the Pontiff to assist Malta in this aspect with Member States.

The President thanked Pope Francis for giving Maltese artists the opportunity to install a nativity scene in St Paul’s Square. It features 17 figures dressed in traditional Maltese attire as well as replica of a Maltese boat – it represents the seafaring traditions of the island but also "the sad and tragic reality of migrants on boats”.

“In the painful experience of these brothers and sisters, we revisit that (experience) of baby Jesus, who at the time of his birth did not find accommodation and was born in a grotto in Bethlehem and then was brought to Egypt to escape Herod's threat,” the Pope had said during the unveiling of the nativity scene. “Those who visit this creche will be invited to rediscover its symbolic value, which is a message of fraternity, sharing, welcoming and solidarity.”

Coleiro Preca also conveyed the prisoners’ messages of thanks, following the Pope’s request to grant a 30-day amnesty to all prisoners.

Accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella and ambassador to the Vatican George Buttigieg, the President also held a meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican State secretary. The talks focused on Malta’s EU presidency.

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