In July, 2013, Pope Francis made his first Papal trip out of Rome, choosing Lampedusa, the Italian island where surviving African asylum-seekers make landfall in Europe. "Who has cried for the people" drowned at sea, the Pope asked.
- Reuters, July 8, 2013
Francis celebrated Mass on the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa to commemorate thousands of migrants who had died crossing the sea from North Africa, underlining his drive to put the poor at the heart of his papacy.
The choice of Lampedusa for his first official trip outside Rome was highly symbolic for the Pontiff, who said news reports of the deaths of desperate people trying to reach a better life that had been like "a thorn in the heart."
Thousands of islanders waving caps and banners in the Vatican's yellow colours welcomed Francis at the fishing port where he arrived aboard a coastguard vessel accompanied by a flotilla of fishing boats and cast a wreath into the water.
He spoke to young African migrants before celebrating Mass in a sports field which served as a reception centre for tens of thousands of mainly Muslim migrants who fled Arab Spring unrest in North Africa in 2011, greatly increasing an exodus that has gone on for years.
His trip came at the start of the summer months when the island, one of the main points of entry into the European Union and just 113 km (70 miles) from Tunisia, sees a steady flow of rickety and unsafe boats arriving on its shores.
He saluted the migrants, many of whom are preparing to fast during Ramadan, and thanked the people of Lampedusa for taking them in and setting an example of solidarity to a selfish society sliding into "the globalization of indifference."
"We have become used to other people's suffering, it doesn't concern us, it doesn't interest us, it's none of our business!" he said during his homily from an altar built from an old fishing boat painted in Italy's national red, green, and white colours.
He had harsh words for people smugglers who he said profited from the misery of others as well and asked pardon for "those, whose decisions at a global level have created the conditions which have led us to this drama."
During the Mass, he used a wooden chalice carved from the wood of a migrant vessel by a local carpenter.
Read full article: Pope Francis commemorates migrant dead at Lampedusa (Reuters)
Homily of Holy Father at Lampedusa (Vatican)
Pope Francis meets with survivors of the Lampedusa shipwreck (Rome Reports, Oct 2014)
IMAGE credit: A wreath of flowers thrown by Pope Francis floats in the Mediterranean Sea off the Italian island of Lampedusa, July 8, 2013 / CNS.