Malta’s Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Alessandro D’Errico, overruled the wish of Malta’s ecclesiastical authorities and other senior clerics to postpone the recent visit of Pope Francis to Malta and instead supported the government’s insistence on holding the visit just a week after the elections, senior church sources have told The Shift.
According to the sources, despite the objections from senior Curia officials, including Archbishop Charles Scicluna, that the Papal visit should be postponed by a few months, the Italian Nuncio, who coordinated the visit with the government, insisted on the date “as it coincided with his retirement from the Vatican’s diplomatic corps”.
“No one really wanted this visit to happen just a week after the elections as spiritually it did not make any sense. Even the Maltese Curia asked for a postponement by a few months, but the Vatican decided otherwise, as Bishop D’Errico was adamant to keep the visit going as planned,” the sources said.
D’Errico, a titular bishop, who spent his entire, 45-year professional life in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, retired on his 70th birthday, one day after Pope Francis’ two-day visit to the island.
The Apostolic Nuncio – the Vatican’s ambassador to Malta – was posted to the island by Pope Francis in 2017 and had built a reputation of closeness to the government. He pushed hard, through his contacts in Rome, to organise the Papal visit to the island, with much of it serving as a photo opportunity for politicians and their families.
Various church officials who spoke to The Shift said that a postponement would have made much more sense as the country would have ‘healed’ from the ‘natural division’ which an election normally brings with it and the church would have had ample time to make the necessary spiritual preparations for such an important occasion.
D’Errico however refused to consider delaying the event because he viewed the visit “as some form of blessing to his personal diplomatic career as Ambassador to the Holy See,” the sources added.
Papal costs reach €4 million
The Shift is informed that the two-day visit by Pope Francis to Malta is estimated to have cost some €4 million, though the taxpayer didn’t pay the entire amount: €3 million was covered by the Maltese state, while €1 million was contributed by the Curia from church funds.
The government has been criticised for squandering taxpayers’ money on the visit on unnecessary expenses such as the building of a €50,000 temporary ramp at the Gozo Harbour to allow the Pope to visit the island for less than two hours via catamaran.
Sources said that part of the funds used by the Curia could also have been used more wisely, claiming thousands of euros were spent on shipping the Pope’s Fiat Cinquecento to Malta from Rome, instead of sourcing the same model from Maltese car importers, while the Nuncio used a portion of the funds to ‘refurbish’ his villa in Tal-Virtu so that “it could host the Pope for a night”.
Questions sent by The Shift to the Curia were not replied to. Instead, a spokesman for the Archdiocese said that “any enquiries regarding vehicles used by the Holy See delegation, or concerning the tenure of the Apostolic Nuncio, should be directed to the Nunciature and/or Holy See press office.”
During his visit to Malta, Pope Francis urged the Maltese authorities to fight corruption and land speculation and warned against “false prosperity” dictated by profit.
The Pope’s speech against corruption was censored by state broadcaster PBS.