“People who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued,” Pope Francis said Friday in Marseille, France, at a memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants. Francis described efforts to stop the migrants from being rescued as “gestures of hate.”
Migrants from Africa and the Middle East often board rickety watercraft to Europe in hopes of a better life there or elsewhere.
The first stop for many of them is often the Italian island of Lampedusa. Recently, the island has been overwhelmed with thousands of migrants.
Often the migrant boats are abandoned at sea by their smugglers.
Rescue groups are sometimes prohibited by some European countries from rescuing the migrants or are delayed in their rescue missions.
“And so this beautiful sea has become a huge cemetery, where many brothers and sisters are deprived even of the right to a grave,” Francis said Friday of the Mediterranean Sea, where tens of thousands of migrants have died.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church thanked the humanitarian groups that rescue migrants.
On Saturday, Francis will preside over the closing session in Marseille of a meeting of bishops and young people from around the Mediterranean region.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.