People attend a vigil prayer for the deceased would be migrants in Rome's Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere on the World Day of Migrants, June 18, 2020.
People attend a vigil prayer for the deceased would be migrants in Rome's Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere on the World Day of Migrants, June 18, 2020.

ROME - World Refugee Day is being observed Saturday with the aim of raising awareness of refugees throughout the world. In Italy, a special prayer vigil was held in Rome this week titled “Dying of Hope,” in memory of the thousands who lose their lives at sea, on their journeys in search of a better life in Europe.

Inside the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, many gathered to pray in memory of those who have drowned in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa and for those who continue to do so. Africans and Italians maintained social distancing inside the church as they prayed together. 

The Secretary General of the Italian Bishops Conference, Monsignor Stefano Russo, addressed the congregation.

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Monsignor Russo said, “We are with numerous friends who crossed the Mediterranean or arrived by land. Many among you have painfully lost friends and family members”.

The vigil was held in observance of World Refugee Day. Monsignor Russo called for the many foreigners, the “new Europeans” to be allowed to emerge from their invisible conditions.

He turned his thoughts to “those forced into overcrowded refugee camps, who see no way out,” to the Rohingya, to the camp of Moira in Lesbos, to the many who reach Tapachula, on the border with Mexico, to Syrians, in Lebanese camps. He called all these “places of pain” where even more than in the past there is a lack of food, clothes, tents and medical assistance.

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The lockdown, he added, makes living conditions even worse with social distancing impossible and men, women and children with no access to water to wash and terrified of dying from coronavirus.

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Marco Impagliazzo is a member of the Catholic Community of Sant’ Egidio who organized the vigil. He said it is essential that everyone, Africans and Europeans, deal with the pandemic on the African continent together.

Impagliazzo said that if this does not happen, there will be other long waves of migrant arrivals and the virus must help us understand that we must all row in the same direction.

More than 40,000 migrants are believed to have died in efforts to reach Europe via land or sea crossings since 1990.