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Pope arrives in Malta

Pope John Paul II arrived in Malta last night for a visit which a church official said would help the small Mediterranean republic face its "crisis of values".

The Holy Father was welcomed at Malta's international airport at 10:00 pm AEST local time, before calling to make a courtesy visit to the president.

During his 30-hour visit, the Holy Father will beatify three Maltese -- a first for the republic. The three include Fr George Preca (1880-1962), founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine, cloistered nun Maria Adeodata Pisani (1806-55), and lawyer and catechist Nazju Falzon (1813-65).

Catholics constitute 91% of the population, and Sunday Mass attendance reaches 65%. But Malta is experiencing the "crisis of values" that is evident in many other countries, according to Fr Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici, rector of the country's archdiocesan seminary.

"Much depends on the proposals the Maltese Church will make," he said. "The Pope's visit and the beatifications will certainly give new impetus to the Church's mission."

The beatification ceremony will be held today in Graneros de Floriana Square. Following a visit in the afternoon to the Centre of the Christian Doctrine Society in Hamrun, where Father Preca's tomb is located, the Pope will return to Rome.