Vatican Radio indicated that the issue of migrants might figure in Pope Benedict's Maltese pilgrimage in April next year to commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck. It noted that 'Malta's archbishop had recently asked that modern migrants be welcomed just as Paul was in ancient times'. The Canadian Press reports:
Tradition holds that Paul stayed three months on the island in 60 A.D. after being shipwrecked on the way to Rome, and was treated well by the islanders, who sometimes sought miraculous cures from him..
..Italy has contended that Malta isn't doing its share of rescuing some of the thousands of migrants who set out across the Mediterranean in often rickety smugglers' boats from Libya in hopes of reaching the Western Europe mainland.
Migrants rescued by Italian vessels last month said Maltese officials gave them life boats and fuel, but didn't take them aboard. The migrants claimed that more than 70 fellow passengers had perished during the voyage, and Maltese authorities later reported finding several bodies. Malta says its small armed forces do what they can to save lives.
Italy itself has come under harsh criticism by U.N. officials and human rights groups for refusing to take on migrants found by Italian vessels in international waters, part of a crackdown on illegal immigration by Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government.
Malta, which is 98 per cent Roman Catholic according to Vatican statistics, is one of the European Union's newer members. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, visited Malta in 1990 and 2001.