The Malta Independent 23 September 2021, Thursday

Relegation: PM’s meeting with Pope Francis no longer an official visit – Vatican sources

Rachel Attard Thursday, 5 December 2019, 15:38 Last update: about 3 years ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s visit to the Vatican “is no longer an official visit”, Vatican sources have told The Malta Independent.

In fact, the PM will only have a private audience with the Pope and will not be accompanied by Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela. It is customary for Foreign Affairs Ministers to accompany their PMs on state visits.

The sources said the media will also not be allowed to cover the audience. Muscat is expected to be accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and their children.

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“This is no longer an official visit. Not even the Ambassador can be there”, the source said. “There will be no meeting with the Vatican Foreign Minister either.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela will not attend the private audience with the Prime Minister


Pressure has been mounting on Pope Francis not to meet Muscat, as the Maltese government sinks deeper into the scandal surrounding the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. A petition urging people to write to Pope Francis, asking him not to meet Muscat, has been doing the rounds on social media. On Wednesday, a group of 22 academics urged the Pope not to receive the outgoing Prime Minister and to distance himself from this "propaganda exercise." The letter was also sent to the Apostolic Nuncio in Malta. 

This newsroom also sent questions to the Vatican and the Apostolic Nuncio last Monday. This newsroom was told that His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio (pictured below) "cannot respond to the numerous requests that come from the newspapers". "Eventually you can contact the Holy See Press Office", the newsroom was told.

In the meantime, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has also cancelled a lunch meeting he had scheduled with Muscat on Friday.

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