On the eve of the one year anniversary of a devastating shipwreck, Pope Francis has called on the men and women of Europe to ‘open the doors of their hearts’ and welcome migrants who risk their lives at sea to flee war and poverty.
Around 370 people, most of them Eritrean and Syrian asylum-seekers, drowned on Oct. 3, 2013 when their smugglers’ boat capsized off the island of Lampedusa. About 50 survivors of that tragedy, mostly living in northern Europe, will travel to Lampedusa Thursday as they press for an international day of memorial for the thousands who perish at sea each year trying to reach Europe.
On Wednesday evening, Pope Francis met privately with the delegation, confessing that he had difficulty in expressing himself to them. He told them “words are not enough to describe what you have suffered, this can only be contemplated in silence, with tears and by trying to find a way to be close to you”.
Two refugees addressed the Pope on behalf of the delegation, thanking the Holy Father for his various efforts on behalf of migrants and asylum seekers and asking for his continued support. They highlighted the pressing issue of the identification of the lost at sea.
Before greeting and sharing a few words with each of the survivors and family members of those lost at sea, the Pope spoke of how the lives of people who need to migrate “are hard” adding that went their journey of migration meets with tragedy, it becomes even harder.
He also described the harsh reality for migrants who make it to port safely but find “closed doors” “do not know where to go”. At times like these, Pope Francis said, “it’s most important to find hearts with open doors”.
Here the Holy Father appealed to the people of Europe to be close to migrants and asylum seekers, who have a right to remember their history, homeland and their dead. And he assured them of his and the Churches proximity and support, particularly in their effort to identify the remaining bodies from that tragedy.
The delegation gifted Pope Francis an iron sculpture of a bottle adrift at sea, containing a family instead of a message. The delegation was organized by the “Committee on October 3,” chaired by Tareke Brhane, and was accompanied by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Papal Almoner, and Fr. Giovanni Lamanna, former President of the Astalli Center.
A bill has been presented before the Italian parliament proposing October 3 as the “World Day in Memory of Victims at Sea”.
Source: Vatican Radio