April 2 2022 Pope Francis departs from Malta  (Vatican Media)

By Linda Bordoni

Apr 4 2022

Pope Francis departs from Malta, concluding his two-day Apostolic Journey to the island nation.

Pope Francis has wrapped up his long-awaited Apostolic Visit to the Mediterranean island of Malta, his 36th Journey abroad, and the first to take place in 2022.

The Air Malta Boeing bringing him back to the Vatican took off shortly after 7 pm local time after a brief farewell ceremony at Malta’s International Airport, in the presence of President George Vella and other dignitaries and delegations.

Welcoming, protecting, promoting, integrating migrants

This visit had twice been delayed because of Covid restrictions. As was evident in his meetings and words, it provided him with many occasions to reiterate his call to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate migrants.

The island nation, strategically placed at the center of the Mediterranean Sea, is a port of rescue and shelter for many people fleeing violence, climate change, persecution and poverty during their perilous journeys of hope toward Europe.

The theme of the Journey, “They showed us unusual kindness”, highlights the value of hospitality on the island where, according to the Bible, St Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome around 60 A.D.

The visit marked the fourth time a Pope has been to Malta. St. John Paul II visited twice (in 1990 and 2001) and Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2010, on the occasion of the 1,950th anniversary of the shipwreck of St. Paul.

Decrying war, praying for peace

The Pope’s thoughts during the journey, which took place as the war in Ukraine continues to rage, were never far from the suffering of those undergoing the violence of bombings and other attacks, and he repeatedly asked for prayers for peace.

One highlight of the weekend visit included a meeting with authorities at the Presidential Palace. During his discourse on that occasion, he decried the war raging in Europe and warned it could pose a threat to all humanity.

Also on Saturday, the Pope boarded a catamaran taking him to the island of Gozo where he prayed at the Marian Shrine of Ta’Pinu.

On Sunday he celebrated Holy Mass for the people of Malta, 85% of whom profess to be Catholic, visited the Grotto of Saint Paul in Rabat, prayed for peace and fraternity, and spent time with migrants at the “John XXIII Peace Lab” Migrant Center in Hal Far.

Pope Francis is scheduled to land in Rome at about 8.45 pm local time.

-Vatican News