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.


Hong Kong records 107 new COVID-19 cases in latest spike

Updated 18 January 2021

Hong Kong records 107 new COVID-19 cases in latest spike

  • The Chinese special administrative region last recorded a triple digit figure on Dec. 19 with 109 cases

HONG KONG: Hong Kong reported 107 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the highest toll in nearly a month as authorities tested thousands of residents after an outbreak in an old residential building located in a busy commercial and residential area last week.
The Chinese special administrative region last recorded a triple digit figure on Dec. 19 with 109 cases. At its peak in July 2020 the city logged 149 new infections.
Dozens of infections were found last week in a densely packed apartment building in Yau Tsim Mong, a teeming district in the city’s Kowloon area.
Authorities thereafter ordered mandatory testing on hundreds of people living in the area and neighboring streets.
Hong Kong has recorded nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases and 162 deaths since the start of 2020.
Businesses are reeling from ongoing COVID-19 restrictions which have banned gatherings of more than two people and closed sport facilities, beauty salons and all restaurants for dining after 18:00 local time.