The decision for Pope Francis to visit Gozo may lead to the extension of his visit and instead of a day visit, it will start on Saturday 30th May in the afternoon and ends on Sunday 31st in the evening.
The last word on the Pope’s visit rests with the Vatican as a delegation from Rome left Malta on Friday evening after meetings with authorities and visits to places considered in the programme. Sources said that a considered factor is that the Maltese people will have opportunities to be close to the Pope.
The Pontiff’s visits organiser, Monsignor Mauricio Rueda, returned to Rome after leading a delegation for a three-day visit during which information was gathered for the final programme of Pope Francis visit in Malta.
The already announced visit in Gozo presented a number of logistical challenges which make it almost impossible that the Gozo visit takes place during a day’s visit, as was originally announced. A helicopter trip by the Pope was also considered.
TVM is informed that the Vatican delegation is expected to propose that the visit is spread on two days: it starts on Saturday afternoon and ends on Sunday evening. In this eventuality, the Pope’s visit to Gozo is expected to be on Saturday evening after the Pontiff would have met the state’s and government’s highest authorities at the Palace in Valletta.
Pope Francis is expected to lead a Pentecost prayer event at the area in front of the ‘Madonna Ta’ Pinu’ Sanctuary, an event which is an important feast for the Church in its Liturgical Calendar. The Pope is then expected to enter the sanctuary to pray in front of the Madonna Ta’ Pinu painting – an occasion which will mark the 100 anniversary of the laying of today’s sanctuary foundation stone. It is understood that the Bishops insisted that the Pope visits Ta’ Pinu as they desire that the visit will be under the guidance of Our Lady with an invitation to Christians to be closer to Jesus.
Pope Francis engagement on Sunday will be a Mass celebration on the Floriana Granaries, with the theme of the event of St Paul’s shipwreck in the Acts of the Apostles: “They showed us unusual kindness”. Two other events are proposed for Sunday afternoon: a visit to St Paul’s cave in Rabat, the place where – according to tradition – St Paul lived for three months; and a visit to a place where migrants are accommodated, as the Pope wishes.
While the official programme is expected to be announced shortly, TVM is informed that preparations are well in hand and meetings with Vatican officials included representatives of the Church in Malta, government high officials responsible for organisational aspects, such as the Protocol Office, the Police Force, the Armed Forces and other entities.