In remarks following the recitation of the Regina Coeli on Sunday, Pope Francis highlighted a number of tragedies around the world.
Once again, he expressed his closeness to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, where the La Soufrière volcano has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. The country’s Agriculture Minister, Saboto Caesar, has also warned about food insecurity, with the availability of food for the population in question. The United Nations has launched an appeal to the international community to assist the inhabitants of the island nation.
On Friday of last week, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent a message to St Vincent and the Grenadines, assuring the people of the Pope’s “spiritual closeness.” In the message, Parolin assured them that the Pope’s thoughts and prayers go out especially for “the many displaced persons forced to evacuate their homes and seek shelter from the effects of this disaster,” as well as those working to assist them. He entrusted the entire population “to the loving providence of Almighty God.”
The Pope himself assured the people of his prayers on Sunday, and offered a blessing to “all those who are providing relief and assistance.
Fire in Iraq hospital
Pope Francis also called for prayers for victims of a fire in a Covid hospital in Baghdad. At least 82 people were killed and more than 100 more were injured when a fire broke out after an oxygen tank exploded.
Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa Al-Khadimi suspended the nation’s health minister in the wake of the tragedy, and has promised an investigation.
Migrants lost at sea
“I confess to you that I am very distressed by the tragedy that has once again taken place in recent days in the Mediterranean,” Pope Francis added, in reference to the death of 130 migrants who perished when the rubber boat they were capsized off the coast of Italy.
Three boats carrying migrants from North Africa to Europe were reported to be in distress as early as Wednesday, but received no aid. “They are people, they are human lives, who for two whole days begged in vain for help, help that didn’t come,” the Pope said. He called for an examination of collective conscience, saying, “it is a moment of shame.”
He added a call for prayer “for these brothers and sisters, and for so many [others] who continue to die in these dramatic journeys,” as well as “for those who can help but prefer to look the other way.”
Martyrs and Vocations
Also at the Regina Coeli on Sunday, Pope Francis recalled the beatification, the day before, of ten Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who were martyred in Guatemala between 1980 and 1991 – “a time of persecution against the Catholic Church” for its commitment “to the defence of the poor.”
“Animated by faith in Christ,” José María Gran Cirera and companions “were heroic witnesses of justice and love,” the Pope said. “May their example make us more generous and courageous in living the Gospel.”
Finally, the Pope noted the Church’s observance of the “World Day of Prayer for Vocations,” and this year’s theme for the Day, “St Joseph: the Dream of Vocation.”
Pope Francis said, “We thank the Lord because He continues to raise up in the Church people who, for love of Him, consecrate themselves to the proclamation of the gospel and to the services of their brothers and sisters.” In particular, he offered thanks for the nine new priests he had ordained earlier Sunday morning during Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
The Pope invited the faithful to pray for the Lord “to send good workers to work in his field and to multiply vocations to the consecrated life.”