The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis would be attending the annual Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck’s celebration in the Mediterranean city of Malta on May 31, according to the Vatican.
The pontiff had urged Catholics to welcome migrants just as the Maltese had welcomed St Paul.
The biblical retelling of St Paul’s shipwreck notes that the Maltese had greeted him “with unusual kindness,” and that line has been chosen as the theme for the papal visit in May.
Malta is among the European Union (EU) countries most directly affected by irregular migration to Europe.
In 2018, the country had the EU’s third-highest number of asylum applications per capita, after Cyprus and Greece.
Maltese President George Vella, and Prime Minister Robert Abela, both said they hoped the visit would help foster national unity.
Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna said the visit was a reminder of Malta’s heritage as a safe haven and the need to “welcome migrants who knock on the shores of our islands.”
It is the first overseas visit Pope Francis has announced for 2020 and the fourth papal visit to the strongly Catholic Malta in 30 years.