Less than six months after the start of his presidency, President George Vella had a private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican – the President’s first meeting with His Holiness in his capacity as Head of State. Dr. Vella previously met Pope Francis in a number of different capacities.
During a private audience at the Pope’s office at the Vatican, President Vella and His Holiness the Pope discussed current issues of mutual interest. After the meeting, the Pope also met with the President’s wife – Mrs Miriam Vella, the rest of his family and a delegation which included Minister of Education Evarist Bartolo and Malta’ Ambassador to the Vatican, Frank Zammit .
During the gift exchange, President Vella presented the Pope with a detailed mosaic painting of the Madonna of Ta’ Pinu venerated by the national sanctuary in Gharb Gozo, created by the Gozo Diocese’s Eikon liturgical art centre. It’s been 400 years since it was painted by Amadeo Perugino and represents the mystery of Our Lady’s ascent into heaven.
On his part the Pope Francis gave the President a metal icon showing an image of the angel of peace destroying evil and war.
Commenting after the private audience and meeting, the President Vella described the Pope as a man of the people. “I continue to confirm my belief that the Pope is a man who is very close to the people. He is down to earth, he speaks our language, he is well informed and seems to be well aware of Malta, and even of the problems we have. We shared our ideas on immigration – a subject very dear to the Pope and even discussed the question of traffickers involved in this matter. ”
TVM Vella asked the President about the possibility of a Papal visit to Malta. “The invitation was renewed, without a doubt, but I certainly will not be answering that yet, of course”.
President Vella also had a meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. During the meeting, Cardinal Parolin showed appreciation at the way Malta was addressing the issue of immigration and at the Maltese government’s commitment to extend the funding of laptops in Church schools.