Illegal Immigrants in Lampedusa, Italy
where Pope Francis spoke on their
LAMPEDUSA, Sicily (AP) — Pope Francis on Monday denounced the "globalization of indifference" that greets migrants who risk their lives trying to reach Europe, as he traveled to the farthest reaches of Italy to draw attention to their plight and to pray for those who never made it.
The tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa, a treeless, strip of rock nine kilometers (four miles) long, is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland and is the main port of entry into Europe for African migrants smuggled by boat from Libya or Tunisia.
Francis decided last week to visit Lampedusa as his first pastoral visit outside of Rome, spurred by a particularly deadly crossing in which a dozen migrants lost their lives. Despite the spur-of-the-moment decision, the island came through, building a makeshift altar out of recycled wood from shipwrecked migrants boats.
Francis greeted newly arrived migrants, and during Mass on the island's sports field, thanked the residents for welcoming so many men and women over the years. He prayed for those who died trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.
"Who wept for these people who were aboard the boat?" Francis asked in his homily. "For the young mothers who brought their babies? For these men who wanted to support their families?"
"We are a society that has forgotten how to cry," he said.
Recycled wood from those vessels were used for Mass: A small, painted boat was turned into the altar, the lectern was made out of a recycled ship's helm and pieces of driftwood, and a pieces of wood were crafted into Francis' pastoral staff and the chalice used at Mass. Officials have said the simple nature of the Mass was in keeping with the express wishes of Francis.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, 8,400 migrants landed in Italy and Malta in the first six months of the year, almost double the 4,500 who arrived during the first half of 2012. It's still a far cry from the tens of thousands who flooded to Italy during the Arab Spring exodus of 2011.