Benedicto XVI - Malta 2010

The timezone in Malta is (GMT +2)

Pope likely to draw huge crowds in Malta

Valletta, Malta, Feb 23, 2010 / 06:29 pm (CNA) .- In preparation for Pope Benedict's coming visit to Malta, the Holy See has released some numbers concerning the Church there. The large number of Catholics on the island nation could mean the Pope will see huge crowds.

The Holy Father will be visiting Malta between April 17 and 18 on the occasion of the 1,950th anniversary of the shipwreck of St. Paul.

If the statistics released through Vatican Press Office on Tuesday are any sign, it's likely that the Pope will draw large crowds during his visit.

The Central Office of Statistics of the Church reports that 94.4 percent of the country's 443,000 people are Catholic and that there are 853 religious and diocesan priests in their service.

This, according to the official statistics, means that there is a priest for every 490 Catholics on the island and an average of 10 priests for every place of worship.

In addition to the elevated number of clergy, there are almost 1,150 religious in Malta.

The Church in Malta also has 91 major seminarians, nearly half the number currently studying for the priesthood in Ireland, which has nearly 10 times the population.

Among scheduled events over Pope Benedict's two-day visit are stops at the place traditionally though to have been where St. Paul preached and St. Paul's Grotto in Rabat. The Holy Father will also celebrate Sunday Mass in the Granaries Square of Floriana.