Why the Pope Went to Lampedusa

An interesting nugget or two here, from Cindy Wooden at CNS: 

“I hope people understand the meaning of this gesture,” Pope Francis told his aides after arriving in Lampedusa yesterday.

In what the Vatican newspaper described as the first pastoral trip of his pontificate, Pope Francis knew his arrival would create the climate of a celebration, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. But that wasn’t the point.

“For the pope, the most important thing was and remains — as he said in his homily — the important and significant gesture of ‘weeping for those who died seeking a better life,’” the spokesman told reporters after the pope had returned to Rome.

To emphasize he was there to mourn the dead and to encourage everyone around the world to examine their consciences about how they directly or indirectly contribute to the world’s immigration flux, to making immigrant journeys more difficult and to withholding a welcome that recognizes their human dignity, Pope Francis wore the purple vestments of repentance and used the prayers from the Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins, Father Lombardi said.

The Jesuit said the locals had laid out a feast for the pope’s lunch — “with everything under the sun,” but the pope “took three or four little things, a sandwich, and was ready to leave. His simplicity never changes.”

While the visit was to an Italian island where thousands of refugees and migrants have landed over the past 25 years — and which an estimated 20,000 have died trying to reach in that period — the pope’s words of  solidarity and encouragement were not limited to those who cross the Mediterranean or the Italians who help them once they arrive. Nor did he limit his strong words about immigration policies to the Italian government or the leaders of the European Union.

The Lampedusa trip allowed the pope — the son of immigrants to Argentina — “to express to the whole world in an immediate and effective way, in a visible way, his deep concern” for the plight of immigrants everywhere, Father Lombardi said.

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