Updated 11.30am

Pope Francis announced on Wednesday that he plans to visit Malta in an interview on a Spanish radio station.

"Slovakia is (already) on the programme, then Cyprus, Greece and Malta," he told Cope radio, reiterating his desire to visit small European countries since he took office in 2013.

The Pope was meant to visit Malta in May of 2020, but the trip was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Sources have suggested November 20 and 21 as potential dates for the trip, but the dates remain unconfirmed. 

However, others suggested his visit to Malta will follow a trip to Cyprus on December 2 and 3. 

A Curia spokesperson told Times of Malta the date of the Pope's Apostolic Journey "will be announced once it has been confirmed".

"This decision will also consider the COVID situation to ensure the health and safety of the Holy Father, the faithful and all those involved, as the Church has always done in consultation with the health authorities."

The pontiff has already scheduled a visit to Slovakia between September 12 and 15 after a brief stop in Hungary to celebrate a mass in the capital Budapest.

Asked by Cope radio whether he may travel to Spain to coincide with the Holy Year in the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela, the pontiff said he could not rule it out.

"But my choice so far of travel to Europe is the small countries. First it was Albania and then all the countries that were small," he said.

"Now Slovakia is on the programme, then Cyprus, Greece and Malta. I wanted to take that option: first to the smaller countries...

"And if I go to Santiago, I go to Santiago but not to Spain, let's be clear," ruling out an official trip to the country.

The official programme for his trip to Hungary includes a meeting with President Janos Ader and Prime Minister Viktor Orban on his arrival.

Asked what he would like to say to Orban, whose anti-migration views contrast with his own, Francis appeared to avoid the question.

"I don't know if I am going to meet him. I know that authorities will come to greet me...

"One of my ways is not to go around with a script: when I am in front of a person, I look him in the eyes and let things come out.

"It doesn't even occur to me to think about what I'm going to say if I'm with him, those potential future situations that don't help me."

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