Pope mourns deaths of Libyan refugees

April 7, 2011

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday (April 7) lamented the
"tragedy" of a growing number of African migrants who have drowned in
the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe.

In the most recent incident, a boat carrying at least 200 people
fleeing the civil war in Libya capsized Wednesday near the island of
Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost territory, 70 miles north of Tunisia.
Rescue workers saved at least 51 passengers but fear that many others
have drowned.

The tiny island has received more than 20,000 immigrants, mostly
from Tunisia, since that country's revolution in January. They have been
joined more recently by Libyans fleeing the violence as U.S. and
European forces try to unseat dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The
migrants reportedly pay at least $1,000 each to make the voyage.

"The tragedy ... has profoundly stricken the Holy Father, who
follows the affairs of migrants in this dramatic period with sympathy
and concern," said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See
Press Office.

Lombardi said the pope was praying for "all the victims of every
nationality and condition" but specifically noted that their number
included Eritrean Catholics who had been living in Libya.