As Benedict, the patron of Europe, teaches us, we are called to hospitality, not rejection.
In the first five months of 2021, more than 630 people have drowned in the central Mediterranean Sea as they sought a better life in Europe.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the 632 recorded deaths represent an increase of 200% compared to last year. This means an average of four people have died on this journey every day.
The Episcopal Conference of Italy has called for a day of prayer on July 11, in memory of all those who died in the Mediterranean and along land routes as they fled their homelands in search of a more dignified life.
Recalling Pope Francis’ appeal after praying the midday Angelus on June 13, the Italian Bishops emphasize that “the Mediterranean has become Europe’s largest cemetery,” and exhort believers to “open their hearts to refugees,” and invite ecclesial communities “not to forget those who have lost their lives while trying to reach the Italian and European coasts.”
The date has been chosen to fall on the liturgical Feast of St. Benedict, patron of Europe.
Next Sunday’s Day of Prayer will be “a way of remembering and exhorting every Christian to follow the example of the patron saint of Europe, and become a messenger of peace and a teacher of civilization.”
The Italian Bishops also highlight new deadly migration routes. They include the Canary Islands, which has had a tremendous escalation in numbers in the last year from the Sahara Desert route, the situation for migrant camps in Libya, and the Balkan routes where many have found themselves in danger and in dire conditions in the past 12 months.