The Vatican has declined to comment on the waste of public funds by the Maltese government during Pope Francis’s 48-hour visit to Malta, after a temporary ramp costing tens of thousands of euros was erected in Gozo to facilitate the pontiff’s brief stop there, and then demolished immediately after the visit.
Asked whether it was the Vatican itself that requested the construction of the €50,000 temporary ramp in Mgarr harbour in order to allow the Pope to visit Gozo for less than two hours, a spokesman for the Vatican did not reply.
The Vatican also refused to answer questions about whether it was informed in advance of the cost of building the ramp, and it did not comment on whether the government’s initiative went against its teachings about the need for good governance and combatting corruption.
Sources close to the Maltese Curia told The Shift that while the Vatican does not normally comment on the hospitality afforded to the Pope during official visits, the ‘temporary ramp’ issue was a Maltese government initiative and the church had nothing to do with it.
“It was the Maltese authorities who insisted that the Pope should visit Gozo and it was they who proposed that he should cross to Mgarr with the catamaran and return to Malta on the Gozo Channel. The Pope was just a guest, and all arrangements were made by the Maltese authorities. Obviously, we have our opinion on spending so much money on a temporary ramp,” the sources said.
Just a few days before the Pope’s visit, The Shift reported that the Gozo Ministry had issued a direct order to Road Construction Limited for the construction of a temporary concrete ramp at the Mgarr Harbour to enable Pope Francis and his entourage to cross over to the island by catamaran.
The Shift reported that the structure, built without a Planning Authority permit, cost taxpayers as much as €50,000. Soon after the visit ended, heavy machinery was deployed to the site and started dismantling the ramp, further increasing the cost of this ‘temporary’ operation.
Many of those observing what was going on at the Gozo harbour were shocked.
“We thought that the ramp, once built, was going to be used for other purposes. When we saw jiggers breaking the ramp and trucks carting away the blocks of concrete, we just couldn’t believe our eyes. The government literally threw away tens of thousands of our money. It would have been better used if this was given as a donation to feed the poor,” a Gozitan fisherman who keeps his boat in the harbour told The Shift.
Another Gozitan who works in the harbour said that the excessive expense could have easily been avoided if the Pope crossed over using a Gozo Channel ferry instead of the catamaran.
“If they wanted to save time, they could have flown him over by helicopter,” he said. “It would have surely saved us money,” he added.
The total expense of the direct order is not yet known, but it’s expected to be a lot higher than the original €50,000 estimate.