Urges "serious efforts" to find solutions for situation in Libya and warns that our ignorance of our neighbor's suffering is a sin.
Thirty-three refugees have recently arrived in Rome from the Greek island of Lesbos, where they landed after escaping Libya by boat, sponsored by the Vatican trough a humanitarian process.
Pope Francis met with them December 20, and during the meeting, explained how life jackets have come to symbolize the plight that these people suffer.
The Holy Father was given a life jacket a few years ago that had been used by a girl who drowned in the Mediterranean. The pope told the refugees now in Rome that he gave that jacket to officials at the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees office, telling them: “This is your mission.” The jacket is to represent, he said, “the inescapable commitment of the Church to save the lives of migrants, so that then we could welcome, protect, promote, and integrate them.”
Another life jacket has been given another symbolic value, fixed to a clear resin cross.
In the Christian tradition, noted the pope, “the cross is a symbol of suffering and sacrifice, but also of redemption and salvation.”
The cross, he said, is to be a reminder to keep our eyes and hearts open: “to remind everyone of the indispensable commitment to save every human life, a moral duty that unites believers and non-believers.”
“How can we fail to hear the desperate cry of so many brothers and sisters who prefer to face a stormy sea rather than die slowly in Libyan detention camps, places of torture, and ignoble slavery?” stressed the pope. “How can we remain indifferent to the abuses and violence of which they are innocent victims, leaving them at the mercy of unscrupulous traffickers? How can we ‘go further,’ like the priest and the Levite of the parable of the Good Samaritan, making ourselves responsible for their death?”
“Our ignorance is a sin,” he said.
Pope Francis went on to say that it is not by blocking the rescue ships that the problem is solved. “Serious efforts must be made to empty the detention camps in Libya, evaluating and implementing all possible solutions,” he said. “We must denounce and prosecute traffickers who exploit and abuse migrants,” the pope continued. “Economic interests must be put aside in order to focus on the person, each person, whose life and dignity are precious in the eyes of God.”
The pope concluded by saying, “we must help and save, because we are all responsible for the life of our neighbor, and the Lord will ask us to account for this at the moment of judgment.”
Following the pope’s discourse the cross was carried by two of the refugees where it was blessed and hung on a wall in of memory all migrants and refugees who are forced to make perilous journeys in search of a better life.