Pope Francis has held an emotional meeting with hundreds of children, including a Nigerian boy whose parents drowned in a shipwreck, and told them migrants "are not dangerous, but in danger," reports AAP on SBS.
Saturday's meeting followed a surge in migrant traffic this week between Libya and Italy, with more than 14,000 saved from overcrowded boats since Monday and three consecutive days of shipwrecks in which hundreds may have died.
Three infants were among 45 bodies recovered at sea on Friday, UNICEF Italy said.
Meeting the mostly Italian children who took a special train from southern Italy to the Vatican's own railway station, Francis hugged the Nigerian boy, Osayande, who has been taken in by an Italian family.
He showed them an orange life jacket he was given by a Spanish rescuer working to save lives in the Mediterranean.
"He brought me this life jacket and, crying a little bit, he said: 'Father, I failed. There was a little girl in the sea and I wasn't able to save her. All I could reach was her life jacket'," the Pope said.
The influx of migrants and refugees into Europe in recent years has fanned popular fears of foreigners and prompted politicians to tighten border controls and limit the number of newcomers allowed to stay.
The Pope has repeatedly sought to underscore the plight of these people, especially the hundreds of thousands who have risked their lives to come to Europe in flimsy boats.
Photo: Francis with Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi at the meeting with the “Children’s Train” (Vatican Insider)
Migrants not dangerous, in danger: Pope (AAP/SBS)
The Pope to the children: migrants are not dangerous, but in danger (Vatican Insider)