Pope Francis will hold a mass for migrants and those who help them, to mark the sixth anniversary of his visit to Italy’s Lampedusa island, a key entry point into Europe, the Vatican said Monday.
The news came as passions raged in Italy over the issue with the German captain of a charity migrant rescue vessel due in court after challenging Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s “closed-ports” policy.
Sea-Watch 3 skipper Carola Rackete was arrested on Saturday after a two-week standoff at sea, and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted on charges of hitting a police boat while entering Lampedusa port with 40 people rescued at sea.
The mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on July 8 will be intimate with only 250 migrants, refugees and those working to saving their lives attending.
The pontiff wants the mass to be “in remembrance of how many have lost their lives fleeing war and misery, and so as to encourage those who strive day after day to sustain, accompany and welcome migrants and refugees,” the Vatican said.
Pope Francis had traveled to Lampedusa on July 8, 2013, four months after his election, before the large jump in the number of arrivals and several large shipwrecks between 2013-2017.
Speaking within sight of dozens of the abandoned boats used by the migrants, he denounced the “globalization of indifference” towards migrants and paid tribute to the hundreds who drown every year trying to reach Europe.