You probably didn’t even hear about it: about a month ago, 12 refugees, fleeing war and poverty in their home, Africa, drowned at sea, victims, not only of a leaky, worn-out, wooden boat, but also of unscrupulous traffickers. These poor folks were close to sanctuary on the tiny island of Lampedusa, just off the coast of Sicily.
You probably didn’t hear about it, right? Tragically, it’s hardly news anymore, as the Mediterranean Sea has claimed 19,000 refugees the past 15 years alone.
One man did hear about it, and decided to do something about it: Pope Francis. Last week, on July 8, he travelled to Lampedusa, his first trip outside of Rome as our Holy Father.
He wanted, he stated, to do penance for our callousness toward refugees, so he offered a Mass of Atonement there on the little island;
He wanted to thank the people of Lampedusa, because so many there have tried to welcome and care for the refugees;
Pope Francis desired to embrace those immigrants who had arrived, and are still in camps and shelters eager to start a new, secure life;
He especially wanted to “wake us up,” to remind the world that, when any human person is treated like trash, even starving, scared, oppressed Africans “on the run,” without anything but hope, all life is degraded!
You probably didn’t see much coverage of his one-day visit to this four mile-long island off Sicily, to this section of the sea that is now an aquatic cemetery to thousands of refugees.
That’s sad. . . because the Holy Father wanted to “wake us up.” Here he showed the tenderness he spoke of last March 19, when he began his service as pastor of the Church universal. The media mostly ignored it.
Something tells me that this Pope is not about to drop it. As Harry Bosch, the L.A. police detective in Michael Connelly’s series, repeats, “Everybody counts, or nobody counts.”
This Pope will not let us forget anybody: the baby in the womb, the immigrant, the refugee, the beggar, the elders, the sick, the homeless and fleeing, the prisoners – – “Everybody counts… or nobody counts.”
Remember Lampedusa! Cry for the victims; do penance for our ignoring their plight; resolve to welcome the immigrant and refugee.
Pope Francis… like Jesus, like St. Francis… is going to nag us about it!