Pontiff puts plight of migrants at the heart of his papacy
Pope Francis has called on the international community to save migrants from drowning across the Mediterranean. The Pope, who is set to make the plight of displaced peoples and migrants central to his visit to the world Meeting of Families in Ireland next month, asked for urgent action as the rate of deaths has increased alarmingly.
It has been worsened by the attitude of members of the new Italian government. Speaking during his Sunday Angelus address in St Peter’s Square Pope Francis spoke of the “dramatic reports of shipwrecks of boats laden with migrants” and said he felt “pain” at the news.
“I address a heartfelt appeal for the international community to act decisively and promptly, in order to prevent such tragedies from repeating themselves, and to guaranteeing security, respect for the rights and dignity of all,” he told a crowd of 25,000 pilgrims.
Last week 30 migrants died when a boat carrying 150 sank close to the coast of northern Cyprus. Meanwhile charities have reported some 600 deaths in the Mediterranean in the past month alone. Médicins Sans Frontières said the increase in deaths has been caused by the decision of the new Italian government to prevent migrant rescue boats from docking in the country’s ports.
Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini has taken a populist anti-migrant stance which has paid off for him and his party at the polls.
The care of migrants has always been close to Francis’s papacy. On hearing of the of migrant drownings off the coast of southern Italy in 2013 he went to the island of Lampedusa, a major arrival point for refugees from North Africa, for his first papal visit outside of Rome.
The Pope’s said the Gospel of Mark 6:30-34 showed how an “unexpected emergency” means that plans must be changed in order to respond to the needs of others.
Christians unable to complete their projects need to show “flexibility and availability”, he said, in response to the humanitarian emergency on their doorstep.
The Pope greeted pilgrims from the Diocese of Rio do Sul in Brazil, the Archdiocese of Seville, Spain, the Diocese of Vicenza, and young people from the Diocese of Pelplin, Poland who had come from Assisi as part of “prayer relay” ahead of October’s Synod of Bishops gathering.
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