The pope’s visit to Malta will not be held this year after all, amid concerns of a possible winter spike in COVID cases and speculation of a looming election.

Times of Malta has confirmed that, despite December being previously earmarked as ideal for the visit by Pope Francis, Valletta and the Vatican have agreed to hold off for the time being. 

Sources privy to the discussions said the main reasons for the postponement were concerns of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and speculation about an election announcement. 

Government sources said that one of the criteria set by the Vatican during discussions was that the papal visit would not take place within a few weeks of an election, whether before or after.

Last month, Times of Malta reported that Prime Minister Robert Abela’s advisers were pushing November as an ideal date for the election.

While Abela has hinted that a snap election is not on the cards, insiders maintain it remains in the political strategy.

Concerns of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases and speculation about an election announcement

Last month, government sources said Malta had informed the Vatican that December would be the ideal window for Pope Francis’s visit.  

The Holy See had suggested a number of dates as part of a tour of the Mediterranean and asked for the government’s preference. 

It is understood that while Castille then singled out the first week of December as ideal, both parties have since agreed, “for obvious reasons”, to postpone the visit until 2022.

Pope Francis was originally planning on visiting Malta in 2020 but cancelled when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted travel across the globe.

On September 1, the pontiff announced plans to visit Malta this year.

If a new date is agreed, Pope Francis will be the third pontiff to come to Malta, following visits by John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Last month, a Curia spokesperson told Times of Malta the date of the Pope’s apostolic journey “will be announced once it has been confirmed”.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has not commented.

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