Pope to meet Lampedusa shipwreck survivors

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Pope Francis will meet the shipwreck survivors at the Vatican on October 1st. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
16:25 CEST+02:00
Pope Francis will next week meet survivors of a shipwreck last October off the coast of Italy, which left hundreds dead and prompted a radical shift in government policy towards boat migrants.

Pope Francis will meet a group of survivors at the Vatican on October 1st, ahead of the shipwreck anniversary two days later, Adnkronos reported on Wednesday.

Around 60 people, both survivors and their companions, will have a private audience with the pontiff before the group travels to the island of Lampedusa, off Sicily, for a commemoration ceremony on October 3rd.

While Pope Francis will not travel to the island, Lampedusa hosted his first visit outside of Rome after he was elected to lead the Catholic Church last year.

Three months after his July visit, around 360 migrants died off the coast of Lampedusa when the boat they were travelling in sank. Just days at least 36 people died in a separate shipwreck.

The two tragedies prompted the Italian government to launch its “Our Sea” (“Mare Nostrum”) operation patrolling the Mediterranean.

More than 100,000 migrants have arrived on Italy's shores since the start of this year.

Despite efforts made by the Italian authorities, Pope Francis yesterday called for more to be done to help migrants globally.

"It is necessary to respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions of migrants more humane," the pontiff said in a message to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees next January.

"Large numbers of people are leaving their homelands, with a suitcase full of fears and desires, to undertake a hopeful and dangerous trip in search of more humane living conditions," he said in the text of an address he will give January 18th.

"Often, however, such migration gives rise to suspicion and hostility, even in ecclesiastical communities, prior to any knowledge of the migrants' lives or their stories of persecution and destitution," he said.

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The pontiff called for the creation of "a universal network of cooperation" to fight trafficking and enslavement, and reminded the international community that "no country can singlehandedly face the difficulties associated with this phenomenon.”

The Pope’s statement follows the drowning last week of 500 migrants in the Mediterranean after their boat was allegedly sank by traffickers. Just ten people survived the shipwreck, which has been described as a “mass murder” and the worst such incident in years. 

READ MORE: 'Mafia of smugglers' bring migrants to Italy

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