Pope condemns global indifference towards refugees
Pope Francis called for an end to ‘indifference’ to the plight of refugees on Monday on a visit to an Italian island, where tens of thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East arrive, upon reaching Europe.‘We ask forgiveness for the indifference towards so many brothers and sisters,’ Francis said at a mass near the port on his first trip outside of Rome, since his election in March.
Speaking within sight of dozens of the abandoned boats used by the migrants, he paid tribute to the hundreds who drown every year trying to reach Europe and said he had come to Lampedusa ‘to reawaken consciences’.‘The culture of well-being makes us think about ourselves, renders us insensitive to the cries of others,’ he said, urging ‘brotherly responsibility’ and condemning a ‘globalisation of indifference’.
Later on Monday he also wished Muslim migrants on the start of their Ramadan period of fasting and prayers and said the Catholic Church was close to them ‘in your search for a more dignified life’.The pope celebrated mass with a cross and a chalice made from the wood of rickety fishing boats that migrants typically arrive on, mainly from Libya and Tunisia, dozens of which lay discarded nearby. The altar for the mass was also fashioned from a fishing boat.
The Catholic leader earlier boarded a coast guard boat and cast a wreath of flowers at sea. Surrounded by dozens of fishing boats and yachts, the pope solemnly made the sign of the cross over the sea in a spot where one of many drowning incidents had occurred. Francis also met with a group of around 50 recent arrivals, many of them young Eritreans, telling them: ‘We will pray for those who are no longer with us.’ It was in tune with the new pope’s informal style.
One young man told him: ‘We suffered a lot reaching this calm place but now we have to stay in Italy. We would like other European countries to help us. ’Under European Union rules, asylum-seekers have to stay in the country they first arrive in and unaccompanied minors are often stuck on Lampedusa for months at a time awaiting relocation.