Lunedì, 22 Ottobre 2018

Pope makes historic visit to migrant island


(By Alina Trabattoni)
Lampedusa, July 8 - Pope Francis told residents of
Lampedusa that they should continue to be "humane and Christian"
as he headed back to the Vatican after a whistle-stop visit to
the migrant stepping-stone island Monday.
"God bless you and help you to continue in this so humane
and Christian attitude," said Francis as left the central parish
for the airport.
For his first official trip as pontiff since his election in
March, Pope Francis chose to go to the southern Italian island
in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of migrants that
set sail from North African shores in desperate attempts to
reach Italy.
Migrants often land in Lampedusa in their attempts to enter
Italy because of the island's location between Sicily and North
Thousands of migrants land yearly after making dangerous
crossings in often rickety and overcrowded boats.
Many have lost their lives trying to reach the island's
"Many of these brothers have passed through the hands of
human traffickers, those that profit from the poverty of
others", Francis said while he was celebrating Mass.
"How much have they suffered, and some have not even made
it here".
"Who of us have cried for these events? Who cried for the
deaths of these brothers and sisters? Who cried for those in the
boats? For young mothers who brought their children? We are a
society that has forgotten what it is to cry," Francis told the
Immediately after his arrival, the pontiff took part in a
colourful yet simple sea ceremony which saw him place a
commemorative wreath in the waters off the Cala Pisana bay of
the island, with boats of local fishermen and press following in
his wake.
The pope also celebrated Mass in the Arena sports centre
just off the port of Lampedusa, for a crowd of local inhabitants
and those who made the trip to the island to attend the
Close by, a makeshift graveyard of damaged vessels from
migrant crossings reminded the huge crowds present of the reason
for the pontiff's visit.
Organizers said they had tried to keep the trip as simple
as possible, in line with Pope Francis' style.
The pope had accepted the invitation from the pastor of St.
Gerlando in Lampedusa, Stefano Nastasi, who had asked him to
come in person to witness first-hand the immigration challenges
in the area.
In fact, hours before his arrival, an immigrant ship
reached the coast of the island, forcing the local authorities
and the civil protection units in the area for the papal trip to
scramble and receive the new arrivals.
The pope also visited survivors and refugees currently
hosted in the island's immigrant centres, and encouraged the
island's inhabitants to continue offering solidarity, appealing
to everyone's sense of responsibility in taking care of
"Today no one feels responsible for this, it is no one's
fault", he added.
"The culture of wealth makes us focus on ourselves and
makes us insensitive to the cries of the other.
"It makes us live in soap bubbles...and creates the
globalization of indifference".
Traditionally the number of attempted crossings increase
dramatically in the summer months due to improved sea
Lampedusa's migrant reception centre has been packed well
beyond its capacity in recent weeks.
In one dramatic incident in June, seven migrants drowned as
they attempted to cling to a tuna cage dragged by a Tunisian
fishing boat south of Malta.
"It's a recognition of our work over the past year, and of
the solidarity the islanders always have towards the immigrants,
welcoming them in", said the mayor of Lampedusa Giusi Nicolini.
"We hope that the pope's visit brings attention to this
emergency that has been going on for 20 years now".
Francis told the crowd during Mass that it was the news of
the "immigrants who died at sea, boats that instead of bringing
hope have brought death" that motivated him to go to Lampedusa.

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