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Pope ‘profoundly saddened’ by image of drowned migrant father and daughter

(Giulio Napolitano / Shutterstock)

The image of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria face-down in the water has been widely shared on the internet

On Wednesday Pope Francis conveyed his sadness for the father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande River attempting to cross into the United States.

Alessandro Gisotti, Interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, released a statement saying: “With immense sadness, the Holy Father has seen the images of the father and his baby daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande River while trying to cross the border between Mexico and the United States.”

“The Pope is profoundly saddened by their death, and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery.”

The image of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, face down in the water has been widely shared on the internet.

Julia Le Duc, a reporter for La Jornada who took the photograph, said Martinez, his wife, and daughter arrived in Matamoros, Mexico on Sunday, in hopes of crossing into the US to request asylum.

After he learned that it would take weeks to start the asylum process, he decided to swim across the border.

“He crossed first with the little girl and he left her on the American side. Then he turned back to get his wife, but the girl went into the water after him. When he went to save her, the current took them both,” Le Duc said.

Echoing the sentiments of Pope Francis, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement saying: “The cry of a father and his baby daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande reaches heaven itself. This unspeakable consequence of a failed immigration system, together with growing reports of inhumane conditions for children in the custody of the federal government at the border, shock the conscience and demand immediate action.”

“Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis? Sadly, this picture shows the daily plight of our brothers and sisters. Not only does their cry reach heaven. It reaches us. And it must now reach our federal government.”

The U.S. Bishops have increasingly called for reforms to the U.S. immigration system, and Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his support for immigrants and asylum seekers, previously criticizing President Trump’s plan for a border wall.