The recent boat accident with dozens of drowned migrants off the Libyan coast continues to cause debate. On Sunday, Pope Francis also spoke out and prayed for the migrants and for people who looked the other way.
Pope Francis is "very saddened" by the renewed "tragedy," he said at noon prayers in St. Peter’s Square. The victims had pleaded in vain for days for help. "It is a shame," said the head of the Church.
The aid organization SOS Mediterranee had said Thursday that a rubber dinghy with about 130 migrants on board had crashed off Libya. Its own rescue ship, "Ocean Viking," had tried to help despite bad weather conditions, it said. But after hours of searching, "only dead bodies" have been found, he said. The competent authorities accused SOS Mediterranee of failure. They would have done nothing to coordinate a rescue effort.
Pope prays for those who look the other way
"Human lives are at stake," Francis stressed in his address to hundreds of pilgrims. He called for prayers for all those who would die on the dangerous way across the Mediterranean Sea. "Let us also pray for those who can help but prefer to look the other way," he added.
Meanwhile, the Libyan coast guard rejected accusations that nothing had been done to help those in distress at sea. The mission was carried out despite adverse conditions, a spokesman ared over the weekend, according to Italian media.
Sant’Egidio appealed to save migrants in distress at sea
The Catholic community of Sant’Egidio called for a Europe-wide prayer vigil on Monday. It felt obliged to raise its voice "so that our continent is not stained by culpable indifference," it said in a statement.
The organization appealed to officials to do everything possible to rescue migrants in distress at sea. In addition, in view of the worrying situation in Libya, more legal possibilities for entry into the EU must be created.
Criticizing the indifference
The Episcopal Migration Agency "Fondazione Migrantes" expressed similar sentiments after the boat accident: "May this tragedy provide a jolt of humanity to create legal and safe entry routes."
The Jesuit refugee service in Italy also responded. Leader Camillo Ripamonti criticized an "indifference of national governments and the European Union". The main task of politics is to "ensure a dignified and free life for every human being on earth". The loss of countless lives in the Mediterranean Sea is unacceptable.
Rescue ship back in action
Italy’s ex-Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, meanwhile, made serious accusations against private sea rescuers. The dead were on the conscience of the "do-gooders," the Lega leader wrote on Twitter. They lure tugboats and human traffickers to send unseaworthy boats out to sea even in bad weather.
Meanwhile, the rescue ship "Sea-Watch 4" set off on a new mission to the central Mediterranean Sea. The crew had left the port of the Spanish city of Burriana, confirmed the operator association Sea-Watch, based in Berlin.
The "Sea-Watch 4", purchased last year from donations by the church-initiated alliance United4Rescue and equipped as a rescue ship, was held for months in Palermo by the Italian authorities. The coast guard objected to "a number of irregularities" of a technical nature. After a legal dispute, the film was released at the beginning of March.