More than 100 people died and about 200 were missing on Thursday night after a migrant boat caught fire at sea while attempting to cross from Africa to Europe. The tragedy happened near the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.
The boat was carrying around 500 migrants who are thought to be mainly from Eritrea and Somalia.
Pope Francis, who visited the island and prayed for African migrants in July, tweeted: “We pray to God for the victims of the tragic shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa.’
Later while addressing a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), the pope tied the migrants’ tragedy to the “inhuman global economic crisis, a serious symptom of a lack of respect for the human person.” He said the Lampedusa tragedy was “shameful”, and asked everyone to renew efforts “to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated.”
Thousands of African migrants in search of a better life have perished making the perilous journey to Europe’s southern borders over the last 20 years, often in dangerously overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels.