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As Pope prepares to visit island, prelate speaks of refugees’ plight

Catholic World News - July 03, 2013

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, Sicily, discussed the suffering of the North African refugees who have attempted to make their way to Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island that Pope Francis will visit on July 8.

Officially part of Sicilian territory, Lampedusa is an island of 5,000 that is only 70 miles from the coast of Tunisia and has increasingly become the destination of refugees fleeing poverty and the violence that has accompanied the Arab Spring.

While numerous refugees have died at sea, “the number of deaths does not seem to be of interest because they have black skin,” said Archbishop Montenegro. “There is so much indifference.”

“Today, ten will arrive, 100 will arrive, 1,000 will arrive,” he continued, as he paid tribute to the generosity of the island’s residents, who “have emptied cupboards, have provided showers, luncheons, goods, clothes.”

The prelate revealed that he invited Pope Francis to visit Lampedusa during his May 20 ad limina visit. “I saw the Pope paid close attention to the news I gave him, and I said it would be good if he wanted to come.”

During his visit to the island, the Pope “will commit a wreath to the sea in memory of those who lost their lives in the shipwreck,” the Vatican announced, before he meets with migrants, celebrates an outdoor Mass, and visits the island’s parish.

The upcoming visit to Lampedusa shows that the Pontiff has “the simplicity of a bishop who watches over his people and watches over them with the eyes of the heart,” Archbishop Montenegro added. “I think this is a great lesson.”

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