Pope Francis will be visiting Malta on May 31, President George Vella confirmed on Monday.

The one-day visit will also include a visit to Gozo. 

President Vella made the official announcement at the end of a pontifical Mass on the solemnity of St Paul's Shipwreck, on the occasion of the feast of St Paul. 

The president said he hoped the visit would bring with it divine blessing and national unity. The message from the Vatican was welcomed with loud applause.  

One of the Pope's last public mentions of Malta was on January 22 when he urged Catholics to welcome migrants as the Maltese had first welcomed St Paul - making the popular feast, dedicated to St Paul, the perfect platform to announce details of the visit. 

The logo for the papal visit includes an extract referring to the Maltese people in the Acts of the Apostles which reads: "They showed us unusual kindness."

The logo for May's papal visitThe logo for May's papal visit

Archbishop Charles Scicluna said the visit was a reminder of Malta’s heritage as a safe haven and the need to “welcome migrants who knock on the shores of our islands”. 

In a statement, Prime Minister Robert Abela welcomed news of the visit as a sign of the high regard Malta was held in among world leaders and urged people to use the visit to foster a sense of national unity. 

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"Helping our neighbour, tolerance and civil rights are all themes close to Pope Francis' heart. They are also values which this government believes in," Dr Abela said. 

Fourth visit in 30 years

It will be the fourth papal visit in 30 years. St John Paul II visited Malta twice, in 1990 and in 2001, when he beatified Dun Ġorġ Preca, Sr Adeodata Pisani and Blessed Nazju Falzon. 

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited Malta in 2010.

The Mass was celebrated at St Paul's Shipwreck church in Valletta. It was attended by President George Vella and his wife Miriam, Culture Minister Jose Herrera attended on behalf of Prime Minister Robert Abela, Opposition leader Adrian Delia, Valletta Mayor Alfred Zammit and other dignitaries and MPs.

1990%3A Pope John Paul's first visit to Malta. Scroll right to see other photos.

2001%3A Pope John Paul II visits Malta.

Pope Benedict's 2010 visit to Malta.

In a message, Archbishop Scicluna said he hoped that the Pope’s visit will “heal wounds that have wounded our social fabric”. 

"This is also a reminder that we need to welcome each other, to forgive each other and to welcome migrants who knock on the shores of our islands seeking a safe haven and human dignity. This is a tall order for a small nation but we will also take the opportunity of the visit of Pope Francis to heal wounds that have wounded our social fabric, but also commit ourselves to be that safe haven in the Mediterranean that gave the name to our islands," he said. 

Former Gozo bishop Mario Grech said the Gozo diocese would greet the pope outside the Ta' Pinu sanctuary. 

He welcomed news of the visit with "holy joy" and urged Catholics to start praying "from today" in preparation of it. 

Pope John Paul II meets Eddie and Mary Fenech Adami in 1990.Pope John Paul II meets Eddie and Mary Fenech Adami in 1990.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna during Monday's pontifical MassArchbishop Charles Scicluna during Monday's pontifical Mass

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