Italy: Pope visits the stranded migrants
By FFE EU News staff
Pope Francis visited Lempedusa for the first time where he was welcomed by a crowd of ten thousand people. The Pope’s decision to visit Lempedusa was because of the news he heard about those many migrants who lost their lives while trying to come to Europe from Africa.
The migrants in search of a better life in Europe desperately take on a journey in ill equipped vessels which in many cases have resulted on them drowning before reaching the shores of Europe. A journey that is dubbed as a ‘journey to death’ rather than a ‘voyage to hope’.
The pontiff held a mass and in his message he said he aims to “reawaken the consciences so that what happened is not repeated”. The death toll of immigrants who died during their “voyage to hope” from Africa to Europe was estimated to at least 25,000 people in the past twenty years.
Pope Francis threw a wreath into the sea before he stepped down the jetty to greet the people of Lempedusa. He was received with a sober program as per his request when he arrived in Lempedusa.
It was the pontiff’s wish not to disturb the routine of the islanders and not to incur extravagant expenses for his visit. The program was attended by the mayor of Lempedusa, Giuseppina Nicolini, and the archbishop of Agrigento, Franco Montenegro who is also the chairperson of Migrantes. Migrantes is the Italian Bishops’ Conference foundation dedicated to migrants.
Pope Francis shook the hands of groups of migrants and reminded them to pray also for those who are not here”, when he arrived in Punta Favolaro.
It was an unexpected visit by the Pope and one that didn’t follow protocol. The mass was held in the stadium of the island and in his message the pontiff deliberately assailed “the globalization of indifference” including the society “that has forgotten how to weep”.
Muslim migrants were also addressed by the pontiff in the dialect of Lempedusa saying “o scia” that meant “my breath”. The pontiff also assured the migrants that “the Church is close to you in the search for a more dignified life for yourselves and your families”.
Pope Francis went to the parish of San Gerlando after he celebrated a mass. There he met with groups of migrants, people of Lempedusa, their mayor Nicolini, and the parish priest who had invited him to visit Lempedusa.
The Pope urged the people of Lempedusa to “preserve with their so humane, so Christian attitude” before he left the church. The visit of the Pope was highlighted in a tweet on @Pontifex_it saying: “We pray for a heart that embraces immigrants. God will judge us by how we have treated those in need”.
Mayor Nicolini made a speech during the eve of the pontiff’s visit saying: “today, Lempedusa is no longer Italy’s final frontier but the first stop on the Pope’s first journey. I hope that his visit helps us to become aware of the responsibility and necessity of offering a welcome”.
Italy’s representative in the UN High Commission for Refugees, Laurent Jolles, regarded the visit of the Pope as “a gesture of great human and symbolic value that will help raise the public’s awareness of the 45 million people around the world who have been forced to leave their homes”.