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At his June 13 Angelus address, Pope Francis highlighted several causes for which he asked the faithful to lend their prayers and support. After presenting reflections on the Gospels, he made special note of the famine in Tigray, the World Day Against Child Labor, the tragedies on the Mediterranean, and World Blood Donor Day.
The Tigray famine
The Tigray region, in Northern Ethiopia, has been struggling with food supplies since November, 2020. According to The Indian Express, the shortages stem from an influx of refugees, displaced by fighting in neighboring countries. This week, reports of widespread famine have emerged, as food stocks have dwindled to crisis levels.
Pope Francis called attention to the suffering that has most affected the most vulnerable groups of Tigray. The pope then led those present in prayer. He said:
“Dear brothers and sisters! I am especially close to the population of the Tigray region in Ethiopia, struck by a grave humanitarian crisis that could expose the poorest people to famine. Today there is famine; there is famine there.
“Let us pray together that the violence may cease immediately, that food and health assistance be guaranteed to everyone, and that social harmony be restored as soon as possible. In this regard, I thank all those who work to alleviate the people’s suffering. Let us pray to Our Lady for these intentions. Hail Mary …”
World Day Against Child Labor
On June 12, countries around the globe observed the World Day Against Child Labor. Established in 2002, the international commemoration aims to raise awareness and activism to prevent child labor. According to the International Labor Organization, the world pandemic is expected to exacerbate dangerous child labor practices.
In response to the dangers that children, especially those in poor countries, are facing, Pope Francis said:
“Yesterday, World Day Against Child Labor was celebrated. It is not possible to close our eyes before the exploitation of children, deprived of the right to play, to study and to dream. According to the estimates of the International Labor Organization, more than 150 million children are exploited by labor: this is a tragedy!
“150 million: more or less like the inhabitants of Spain, together with France and Italy. This is happening today! So many children who suffer this: exploited by child labor. Let us all together renew the effort to eliminate this slavery of our times.”
Pope Francis next turned his attention to an influx of migrants arriving in Sicily, as well as those who were tragically lost at sea. A report from Africa News cites some 15,000 migrants and refugees arriving since June 10. In that same time, at least 675 people have died or gone missing while attempting to make passage. This is just a small portion of those who have died in shipwrecks in the last decade.
Pope Francis remembered those who have died in transit, both recently and in the last few years. He said:
“This afternoon in Augusta, Sicily, the ceremony will be held for the arrival of the remains of the boat from the shipwreck of 18 April 2015. May this symbol of so many tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea continue to challenge everyone’s conscience and foster the growth of a more supportive humanity that tears down the wall of indifference. Let us think: the Mediterranean has become Europe’s largest cemetery.”
World Blood Donor Day
Before stepping away from the podium, Pope Francis promoted the World Blood Donor Day, on June 14. The pope thanked all those who took part and encouraged all the faithful to consider donating. He said:
“Tomorrow is World Blood Donor Day. I sincerely thank the volunteers and I encourage them to continue their work, bearing witness to the values of generosity and gratuitousness. Thank you very much, thank you!”