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Pope to visit Malta in May

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Vatican City (AFP)

Pope Francis will make an official trip to Malta on May 31, the Vatican said Monday, bringing the pontiff to one of the top disembarkation spots for migrants fleeing Libya.

The visit, to both the main island of Malta and the archipelago's island of Gozo, is the pontiff's first announced journey for 2020.

Malta is on the front line of migration into Europe, situated 95 kilometres (60 miles) south of Sicily and due north of Libya's capital of Tripoli.

That makes it a central port of entry into Europe for the increasing numbers of migrants attempting the perilous Mediterranean crossing, fleeing the renewed fighting in Libya.

Francis has often spoken up for migrants and has called on the European Union to be more welcoming of those fleeing chaos in their home countries.

The Argentine pontiff will meet Malta's new prime minister, Robert Abela, who took office in January promising to strengthen the rule of law there.

Malta has been gripped by a widespread allegations of corruption, another global problem regularly addressed in the pope's declarations.

Malta's previous prime minister, Joseph Muscat, stepped down as the investigation into the 2017 murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 implicated some of his closest collaborators.

According to Catholic tradition, St. Paul was shipwrecked in the Maltese archipelago on his way to his trial in Rome in the year 60 AD.

While no other papal trips have yet been announced for this year, he has been formally invited to visit Iraq, Cyprus, Indonesia and Montenegro.

He has also expressed an interest in visiting South Sudan, where he has personally interceded in efforts to end the civil war there.

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