The Pope arrives in Malta this Saturday on an apparently simple trip, but complicated by the nature of the moment and the mood that transpires on the island after the recent legislative elections, which have confirmed Labor for the third time. The Vatican does not usually organize trips close in time to electoral periods to avoid political interpretations – in this case it could be sold internally as an accolade. But on this occasion, the trip was postponed twice due to the pandemic and has ended up almost overlapping with the polls. In addition, the island is marked by the arrival of immigrants through the Mediterranean and by a certain weariness of its citizens towards this situation. Francisco, who will remain there for less than 48 hours, will have to balance to face a landing that oscillates between indifference and some kind of resentment towards the welcoming discourse that he has maintained since his arrival at Pedro’s chair in 2013 and that he must now adapt to the situation of the island. All this, moreover, with the echo of the war in Ukraine in the background, to which he must refer in the traditional press conference on the flight back to Rome.
Francis arrives at a crossroads in the Mediterranean – the place where Saint Paul landed during a shipwreck in the year 60 – also punctuated in recent times by serious cases of corruption. Some of these issues considerably tainted previous governments -of the same political persuasion-, such as the murder by means of a car bomb of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, who had investigated several scandals, such as the presence of Maltese businessmen in the Panama papers . In fact, the Pope will meet with the re-elected Prime Minister, Robert Abela, who took over the Government in 2020, after the resignation of Joseph Muscat when tycoon Yorgen Fenech was arrested, accused of masterminding the murder of Caruana and that pointed to several people from the Cabinet as intellectual authors of the terrible crime.
Francis will most likely address this issue and the island’s corruption issues in one of his five speeches. Malta has become in recent years a destination for oligarchs and great fortunes thanks to what are known as golden passports. Partly for this reason, as the EFE agency recalled in one of its chronicles, the journalist Kristina Checuti recently explained in the Times of Malta why the Pope should not have to travel to Malta: “It is like a blessing to the corrupt. He will be glorifying his tacit silence in the face of war crimes, his decade-long attack on the true value of European democracy.” “Dear Pope Francis, on April 2 you should be on a Ukrainian border, with the people who most need your presence. Come to Malta only when the nation has found its soul again,” he wrote.
The issue of immigration will be another of the pillars of the visit. In 2021, according to a report by Amnesty International, 832 migrants arrived on the island, the majority coming from rescues by the Maltese armed forces. In fact, during the Pope’s arrival in Malta, the ship of the German NGO Sea Eye with 116 rescued migrants will spend 48 hours waiting for a response from the European island in order to disembark.
Malta is an island with an area of 316 square kilometers and 500,000 inhabitants: one of the highest population densities in the world. Due to its position, it is one of the Mediterranean countries that receives the most migrants in proportion to its population, but the Council of Europe has criticized the authorities for ordering private boats to return the rescued people to Libya, where they return to the centers that Francisco has defined as “authentic concentration camps”. But it is a very sensitive issue among the population. And, partly for this reason, the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, has criticized the Dublin Convention by which the countries of first arrival of migrants are obliged to welcome them and places like Malta are saturated, with the consequent political derivatives and social.
Francisco, precisely, will visit a reception center on the last day of his trip where 200 migrants will receive him. One of them has written an open letter to the pontiff: “As a shepherd, it may be that you come to check and count your flocks or that you come to check if your flocks are safe from wolves. I could give you a clue. Some disappeared on the way, while others were bitten and did not make it home.”
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The Pope apologizes to the indigenous Canadians
The pope on Friday apologized to indigenous Canadians for the abuses they suffered in boarding schools run by the Catholic Church during the processes of forced assimilation in the 19th and 20th centuries and announced that he hopes to visit their land at the end of July. “I ask God for forgiveness” and “I join my brother Canadian bishops in apologizing,” he said during an audience at the Vatican before Métis, Inuit and First Nations delegations from Canada.
The delegations present, made up of 32 representatives of the indigenous peoples and bishops, gave the Pope the testimonies of survivors. In this “historic” visit, an “apology” from Francisco was expected, as it happened. Indigenous Canadians accepted it, saying this is a “good faith gesture.” In similar terms, the country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, considered that it is “a step forward.”
Around 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly interned between 1890 and 1997 in hundreds of school residences. Some 4,000 minors died due to the unsanitary conditions in which they lived and the mistreatment, as some survivors have denounced. Last year, in fact, the remains of 215 children, students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, in the province of British Columbia, were found. A sad discovery that was followed by others and that brought back to memory the tragedy of the original Canadian peoples and their request for justice. From the end of the 19th century until 1997, Canadian governments entrusted Catholic, Anglican and Protestant institutions with the education of indigenous children, who were removed from their settlements, even without the consent of their parents, and in those boarding schools they were prohibited from using their names. , their language and traditions.