FROM LAMPEDUSA TO STRASBURG THE UNHEARD PLEAS OF POPE FRANCIS Many times, the Pope spoke about the dramas of those coming to Europe in search of a better life

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“They are men and women, our brothers and are in search of a better life, they are hungry, persecuted, wounded, abused, victims of war; they are in search of something better. They were looking for happiness”, Pope Francis said bitterly yesterday at Regina Caeli about the nth tragedy off the coast of Italy. Many times, the Pope spoke about this dramatic problem; being son of migrants, he cannot ignore this problem. Many times, he asked the international community to solve this problem concretely.

“I ask to European men and women to open their hearts”, he said on the first anniversary of the tragedy of October 3rd, 2013, when 368 migrants lost their lives as they tried to reach Lampedusa. During his famous speech at the European Parliament in Strasburg, in front of representatives of inactive institutions, he firmly said, “We cannot tolerate the Mediterranean Sea becoming a grave”. It is no coincidence that the first apostolic visit of Pope Francis was in the suburb of Lampedusa, where he celebrated the Mass on an wooden altar of fishermen and an Ambon made of the rudders of wrecked ships.

He could not help but testify his closeness to population and survivors. The tragedy of migrants dead in the sea while in search of a “hopeful path that became a deathful path” became for Pope Francis like a sorrowful thorn”. During the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, he compared the situation of refugees to the Son of God. “Jesus and His family experienced this difficulty too” he explained. “Unfortunately, he said, “migrants do not always find kind reception towards them and the values they carry, or respect”. On the contrary, they are often considered “second class”.

During an audience he underlined that “migrants, through their humanity, besides their cultural values, can widen humanitarian fraternity” becoming “partners in the construction of a richer identity of every community” and they make “societies inclusive, creative and respectful of everyone’s dignity”. Nevertheless, too often, poor people become “an income” or worse, objects of trafficking and slavery. Francis invited the whole world to be “brave enough to welcome those who are in search of a better life” because “we all immigrated in this world”. Christian communities should go beyond “differences and hostilities”. But maybe, these stories of terrible trips, blackmailing, tortures, abuses and death cannot make people cry and be ashamed anymore; men became indifferent because they are wrapped in “their wellbeing that anesthetizes the heart”.

Translation provided by Mary Ann D’Costa

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