In perhaps the sternest homily of his papacy so far, Pope Francis has inveighed against “the globalisation of indifference”.
Speaking on Monday on the small island of Lampedusa, the point of entry into Europe for tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, just 70 miles off the African Coast, he said: “We have become used to the suffering of others. It doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t interest us. It’s not our business.”
He said he had chosen to visit there on his first journey out of the Vatican after learning of a recent incident in which migrants had died at sea while attempting to cross from north Africa. The thought of their suffering had come back to him repeatedly like “a thorn in the heart”, he said.
As his plane landed, more than 160 Eritreans were coming ashore in the port — the latest of almost 8,000 arrivals on Italy’s southern coasts so far this year. Using prayers for the remission of sins, the Pope celebrated mass within sight of the “graveyard of wrecks”, where fishing boats carrying migrants and asylum seekers end up after they drift ashore. He ended his sermon by asking for forgiveness “for the indifference towards so many of our brothers and sisters”. But he also praised the contribution of Italian coastguard and revenue guard rescuers, and of the Lampedusans themselves. Though it has at times been turned into a refugee camp, most Lampedusans have reacted with generosity. Most of their protests have been directed at the authorities’ failure to provide them with sufficient resources. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013