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Pope calls for prayers for Lampedusa victims

Faithful gather near a giant screen broadcasting the Angelus prayer of Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square yesterday (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

As efforts to recover the bodies of migrants who drowned off Italy’s southern coast continued, Pope Francis again asked people to pray for the victims and he sent his almoner to Lampedusa to pray over the 194 corpses recovered as yesterday and to visit the survivors.

During his midday Angelus address yesterday ope Francis asked the thousands who joined him in St. Peter’s Square for the Marian prayer to join him for a moment of silence.

“We remember those who lost their lives in Lampedusa,” the Pope said. “Let us all pray silently for these brothers and sisters of ours – men, women and children. Let our hearts cry for them.”

The boat, reportedly carrying more than 500 migrants from northern Africa, capsized last Thursday and sank near Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island. After interviewing the 155 survivors in a migrant reception centre on the island, Italian officials said someone set a fire on the boat to signal a problem; when too many of the passengers moved away from the fire to one side of the boat, it capsised.

Rough seas caused some delays in the effort to recovery bodies. The bodies of more than 100 men, women and children were believed to be still trapped in the wreckage as of today.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the official Pope Francis appointed in August to be his almoner and distribute charity, traveled to Lampedusa as a sign of the pope’s personal concern for the dead, the survivors and the coast guard and humanitarian workers at the scene.

Pope Francis had visited the island in early July after seeing newspaper headlines in June describing the drowning of immigrants at sea. Lampedusa is only about 70 miles from Tunisia and often is the first port of entry for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa. The United Nations estimates that more than 20,000 migrants trying to reach Europe have drowned in the Mediterranean in the past 25 years.