ROME - Pope Francis on Sunday invited the crowd gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to join him in prayer for the “poor, unarmed people" who were killed or injured by an air strike on a detention center for migrants in Libya.
A United Nations assessment of the attack this week in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura reported that more than 50 people were killed, including six children, and 130 others were injured. It said there were reports that “following the first impact, some refugees and migrants were fired upon by guards as they tried to escape.”
Pope Francis told the faithful that the “international community cannot tolerate such serious incidents.” He expressed the hope that “humanitarian corridors may be opened in an organized and concerted manner for the migrants who are most in need.”
Since his election, the pope has often spoken out in favor of migrants and on the need to provide assistance to people fleeing wars and famine. His first trip outside of the Vatican after being named pope in March 2013 was to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, which for decades has borne the brunt of many of the arrivals of these desperate people.
Tomorrow on the sixth anniversary of that visit, the pope will celebrate a special Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Some 250 people including migrants, refugees and people involved in assisting migrants will be taking part in the Monday morning service.
On Sunday the pope also told the faithful he wished to remember “all the victims of the recent massacres in Afghanistan, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.”
Meanwhile many migrants continue to attempt to reach European shores in every possible way. The Alan Kurdi, a German rescue ship, with 65 migrants on board, was heading toward Malta on Sunday after Italy refused to allow it to enter its territorial waters. The migrants will be transferred onto a vessel of the Maltese armed forces and then relocated from Malta to other European Union member states.
The Alan Kurdi is the latest of several vessels to be turned back in the last 10 days as Italy maintains its “closed ports” policy and imposes stiff fines on NGOs that break that rule in their efforts to bring migrants to safety.