Pope to visit Lampedusa refugee destination

“Deeply touched” by the recent sinking of a boat carrying migrants from Africa, Pope Francis will visit the Italian island of Lampedusa — a frequent destination for refugees — on July 8.

Officially part of Sicilian territory, the isolated island of 5000 inhabitants is less than 115 kilometres from the coast of Tunisia, making it a beacon for asylum seekers fleeing the poverty and violence that has accompanied the Arab Spring.

Of the 7913 refugees who arrived on the Italian coast in the first six months of this year, 3648 landed on Lampedusa.

Numerous refugees have died at sea, Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, Sicily, told Vatican Radio, but “the number of deaths does not seem to be of interest because they have black skin”.

Archbishop Montenegro paid tribute to the generosity of the island’s residents, who have been “giving everything” to help the migrants, who often come with nothing on perilous, flimsy boats.

“[My people] have emptied cupboards, have provided showers, luncheons, goods, clothes,” he said.

The prelate revealed that he invited Pope Francis to visit Lampedusa during his May 20 ad limina visit. “I saw the Pope paid close attention to the news I gave him, and I said it would be good if he wanted to come.”

During his visit to the island, the Pope “will commit a wreath to the sea in memory of those who lost their lives in the shipwreck”, the Vatican announced, before he meets with migrants, celebrates an outdoor Mass, and visits the island’s parish.

“Immigration is not an ‘emergency’; we must have the courage to stop using this word: It is the way things are,” Archbishop Montenegro said. “Today, 10 will arrive, 100 will arrive, 1000 will arrive; but the problem is not because they arrive in the thousands. The problem is also there if only 10 arrive, because they are 10 men who want to live.”


Vatican Radio

Vatican Insider

Image: English-Online

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