Pope Francis has offered prayers after a boat carrying African migrants sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa yesterday, reports The Catholic Herald.
The boat carrying around 500 migrants, thought to be mainly from Eritrea and Somalia, reportedly caught fire with the estimated number of victims so far reaching 94. According to reports, the victims included a pregnant woman and two children, a boy and a girl, under the age of three. Around 150 survivors have been rescued, but more than 250 people are said to still be missing.
Pope Francis tweeted: 'We pray to God for the victims of the tragic shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa.'
Later the Pope addressed a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). He tied the migrants’ tragedy to the 'inhuman global economic crisis, a serious symptom of a lack of respect for the human person.' Calling the Lampedusa tragedy 'shameful,' he asked everyone to renew efforts 'to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated.'
Pope Francis visited Lampedusa, his first trip as Pontiff outside Rome, in July. The small Italian island and its Astalli refugee centre is the first port of call for scores of migrants arriving in Italy from all over the world.
Monsignor Francesco Montenegro, Archbishop of Agrigento and president of the CEI for Migration, said: 'This is news that gives rise to feelings of sadness and outrage because we cannot continue to count the dead as if we were simply witnesses. The stories of people who make the trip, as the Pope said when he visited Lampedusa, are stories that are intertwined with ours.'
Francis offers prayers for victims of Lampedusa boat sinking (The Catholic Herald)
Carnage at sea needs to stop (Vatican Insider)