Pope trip to Malta in May to spotlight migrants’ plight

The trip will be Francis’s first outside Italy this year. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 February 2020

Pope trip to Malta in May to spotlight migrants’ plight

  • The Vatican said on Monday the pope will visit the country, which lies between Sicily and North Africa, on May 31
  • Malta has been at the center of several disputes with Italy and other European nations

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will make the first trip by a pontiff in 10 years to the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta in May, where he is expected to defend the rights of migrants trying to reach Europe.

The Vatican said on Monday the pope will visit the country, which lies between Sicily and North Africa, on May 31.

Malta has been at the center of several disputes with Italy and other European nations over which one should take migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by ships from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Like Italy, it has sometimes closed its ports to humanitarian ships that have rescued migrants, saying they should be shared among EU nations.

The pope, who has made defense of migrants a major part of his papacy and has often called the Mediterranean a cemetery, has criticized the closing of ports.

Politically, the island is still reeling from the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in a car bombing in 2017. Francis may pay tribute to her, according to a Vatican source.

Malta is important in the history of Christianity because a ship carrying St. Paul to Rome was shipwrecked there in about the year 60 AD while he was being taken to Rome.

Francis’s trip to Malta is also seen as a tribute to its archbishop Charles Scicluna, who is the Vatican’s most experienced sexual abuse investigator.

Scicluna’s investigations have led to the defrocking of some of the Church’s most notorious paedophiles in Mexico, Chile and other countries.

Scicluna has also been in the front line in the defense of migrants, sometimes criticizing government policies. In 2017 he visited the Phoenix, one of the NGO-run rescue ships plying the waters of the southern Mediterranean to save migrants from drowning.

Former pope Benedict XVI visited Malta in 2010 and Pope John Paul II went there in 1990 and 2001.

The trip will be Francis’s first outside Italy this year. He is expected to visit Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea in September, according to diplomatic sources.


At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

Updated 01 December 2020

At least two killed as car ploughs into pedestrian zone in German town

  • The driver was arrested and the vehicle was impounded, Trier police tweeted
  • Two people have died, and 15 others had suffered serious injuries

BERLIN: At least two people including a child were killed and up to 15 injured on Tuesday when a speeding car ploughed into a pedestrian area in the western German city of Trier, authorities said.
Witnesses said people screamed in panic and some were thrown into the air by the car as it crashed through the shopping zone.
Police said several people had been killed, having earlier put the death toll at two, with more than 10 injured. The local newspaper, the Trierischer Volksfreund, put the death toll at four, including a child, but police did not confirm that figure.
"We have arrested one person, one vehicle has been secured," police said, adding that a 51-year-old German suspect from the Trier area was being questioned, police said.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe had rushed to the scene.
"We have a driver who ran amok in the city. We have two dead that we are certain of and up to 15 injured, some of them with the most severe injuries," he told public broadcaster SWR.
"I just walked through the city centre and it was just horrible. There is a trainer lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he told a news conference, with tears stopping him from speaking further.
He told broadcaster N-TV that people who saw the incident were "totally traumatised" and the street "looks a bit like after a war".
Leibe said he did not know the motive for the incident, which shocked residents of Germany's oldest town, founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Trierischer Volksfreund quoted an eyewitness as saying a Range Rover was driving at high speed and people had been thrown through the air. It said the car had Trier plates.
It reported that people screamed in panic when the car drove through the street.
Officers were scouring the area in search of evidence, backed by police dressed in flak jackets and carrying rifles. On the streets, Christmas lights twinkled incongruously.
Germany has tightened security on pedestrian zones across the country since a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016 that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
In October 2019, a man opened fire on a synagogue in the city of Halle. After failing to get into the building he went on a rampage outside, killing two people.
In February this year a racist gunman killed nine migrants in Hanau near Frankfurt before killing his mother and himself. Only about a week later, a local man ploughed his car into a carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen, injuring 61.
Germany has tightened measures to fight the coronavirus, with bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools are still open.
"What happened in Trier is shocking. Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is currently on duty to care for the victims," Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Twitter.