Amid his troubles back home, Muscat travels to Rome to meet Pope and PM Conte

Private audience with the Roman pontiff went ahead despite calls for the pope to cancel it amid a political crisis triggered by the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Pope Francis and Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat
Pope Francis and Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat

The Pope has met Maltese prime minister, Joseph Muscat and his family, amid trouble back home in Malta where a political crisis has gripped the nation.

The private meeting went ahead despite calls for the pope to cancel it amid a political crisis triggered by the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Muscat arrived in Rome on Friday to attend the Mediterranean Dialogues conference, but did not address the conference as expected.

The government also said that Muscat had met Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte in a private meeting at Palazzo Chigi. The government said that the two leaders had discussed the excellent relations between the two countries.

The visit to the Roman pontiff came amid allegations that senior government figures attempted to interfere in the investigation into the October 2017 murder of Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a bomb planted beneath the driver’s seat of her rental car as she drove away from her home in the village of Bidnija. Caruana Galizia, 53, had exposed corruption at the highest level in Muscat’s government.

A group of 22 Maltese academics wrote a letter to Francis on Wednesday urging him not to meet the country’s leader.

“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,” they wrote.

In a statement on Thursday, the Maltese bishops Charles Scicluna, Mario Grech and Joseph Galea-Curmi called on citizens to “work together in these turbulent times, with a calm sense of purpose, to promote truth and justice with charity and respect for one another”.

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