As he prepared to depart from Italy's Fiumicino airport for his Apostolic Journey to Malta, the Holy Father sent a telegram to the President of the Republic of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano. He took the opportunity to inform him of the "providential occasion" of his visit to Malta and to greet all Italians.
The Holy Father departed for Malta at 3:25 p.m. local time, unhindered by the cloud of volcanic ash that had interrupted flights in northern Italy since Saturday morning.
Pope Benedict wrote that as he prepared to carry out his pilgrimage to Malta he wished to give a "cordial greeting" to President Napolitano and the entire nation of Italy. He added that the telegram was accompanied with his great hope for the "spiritual, civil and social progress" of the country.
In the short telegram, he welcomed the "providential occasion" of the pilgrimage to Malta as an opportunity to visit the historic place where the apostle Paul once was shipwrecked and meet with representatives of the Maltese people. He especially welcomed the chance to be with "brothers and sisters in the faith."
The Holy Father will be in Malta from Saturday afternoon until late Sunday. He was scheduled to arrive at 5:00 p.m. local time.