Currents News Staff
This is what Father Luigi Usubelli saw: a wooden boat carrying 70 migrants including four children and six women floating in the Mediterranean sea.
“You can’t just stand by when you see that,” Father Usubelli said. “You can’t just watch. You have to act.”
Father Usubelli jumped into action helping to pull them onboard a boat used by the Spanish non-profit “Open Arms”.
“This was a very special experience,” Father Usubelli said. “Being in the middle of the sea and seeing firsthand the boldness of these people who hop on a boat, without resources, and wait in the middle of an agitated sea, is a powerful experience.”
The humanitarian agency helps to rescue those who are abandoned in international waters trying to flee wars, persecution and poverty. But it says thousands of them are dying trying to reach a safe shore.
That’s why Pope Francis visited Lampedusa in 2013 shortly after his election. The island off the coast of Sicily is a primary destination for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia seeking entry into Europe.
The Holy Father’s concern for migrants has been at the center of his pontificate ever since. Every year, he celebrates a Mass to commemorate the visit and talk about the conditions refugees face once they make it to shore.
“You can’t imagine the hell they live there in those detention camps,” Pope Francis said. “These people came with only one hope of crossing the sea.”
Seven years after the pontiff’s visit to Lampedusa, a global coalition of non-profits has designated July 8 as “International Day of the Mediterranean Sea” in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of migrants and refugees.