With a population of only 6,000, Lampedusa has been a gateway to Europe for over 200,000 people since 1999, with about 4,000 arriving this year. Many asylum seekers have drowned crossing to Italy, an estimated 20,000 in the last two decades, with about 500 being reported dead or missing in 2012.
Pope Francis praised the people of Lampedusa for the help they have offered to the boat people. “May your example be a beacon for the world as a whole to have the courage to welcome those who are looking for a better life”. He lamented that “we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters”, resulting in “globalised indifference”. “We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion.”
Photo Pope Francis met with media by Catholic Church of England & Wales, flickr cc.