Georgia Bulletin

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(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters) (July 8, 2013)
Pope Francis tosses a wreath of flowers into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, July 8. During his visit to the island, the pope memorialized thousands of African immigrants who have died in the past 25 years trying to reach a new life in Europe.

Vatican City

Pope calls for repentance over migrants’ treatment

Published July 18, 2013

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—Before saying a word, Pope Francis made the sign of the cross and tossed a wreath of white and yellow flowers into the Mediterranean Sea in memory of the estimated 20,000 African immigrants who have died in the past 25 years trying to reach a new life in Europe.

In his homily at an outdoor Mass, Pope Francis said he decided to visit Lampedusa, a small island with a population of 6,000 and just 70 miles from Tunisia, after seeing newspaper headlines in June describing the drowning of immigrants at sea.

“Those boats, instead of being a means of hope, were a means of death,” he said.

Wearing purple vestments, like those used during Lent, and using the prayers from the Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins, Pope Francis said the deaths of the immigrants are “like a thorn in the heart,” which spurred him to offer public prayers for them, but also to try to awaken people’s consciences.

“Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours?” the pope asked in his homily. “All of us respond: ‘It wasn’t me. I have nothing to do with it. It was others, certainly not me.’”

“Today no one feels responsible for this,” he said. “We have lost a sense of fraternal responsibility” and are acting like those in the Gospel who saw the man who had been beaten, robbed and left on the road half dead, but they kept walking.

“The culture of well-being, which leads us to think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of others,” Pope Francis said, adding that the globalization of the world’s economy in many cases has led to “the globalization of indifference.”

When the seas are calm, especially when there are wars and political upheaval in northern Africa, the desperate pay traffickers to give them a place on a boat bound for Europe. Usually the boats are rickety and dangerously overcrowded.

Pope Francis told the crowd at Mass that the traffickers “exploit the poverty of others” and are “people for whom the poverty of others is a source of income.”

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this,” Pope Francis said.