Pope: in Lampedusa, let us ask for forgiveness for the indifference towards those who suffer, and those who create the situations behind the tragedies of emigration
Lampedusa (AsiaNews) - "Lord," said the pope, "in this liturgy, a penitential liturgy, we beg forgiveness for our indifference to so many of our brothers and sisters. Father, we ask your pardon for those who are complacent and closed amid comforts which have deadened their hearts; we beg your forgiveness for those who by their decisions on the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!"
Near Lampedusa's sports field, where Francis celebrated Mass, a 'graveyard of boats" holds what is left of hundreds of ships that brought over the years tens of thousands of people fleeing war, hunger and oppression. The 'boats of hope' that sank are missing, with them possibly 20,000 people.
It is to them that Francis, the son of immigrants, dedicated his first act on the island. After arriving this morning on his first trip outside of Rome, he laid a wreath in the sea and said his first prayer.
He came to the island for those who dared to take to the sea and those who took them in, holding a pastoral staff made of wood from the boats. The chalice he used during the service was made from the same wood whilst a boat was used as an altar, a rudder lying in from of the Ambon.
For the Mass, the pope wore the purple stole, used for funerals and penitential celebrations.
"Immigrants who died at sea from that boat, which, instead of being a way of hope, was a way of death," the pope said at the start of his homily. "When, a few weeks ago, I heard the news-which unfortunately has been repeated so many time-the thought always came back as a thorn in the heart that brings suffering. And then I felt that I ought to come here today to pray, to make a gesture of closeness, but also to reawaken our consciences so that what happened would not be repeated. Not repeated, please! But first, I want to say a word of sincere gratitude and encouragement to you, the residents of Lampedusa and Linosa, to the associations, to the volunteers and to the security forces that have shown and continue to show attention to persons on their voyage toward something better. You are a small group, but you offer an example of solidarity! [. . .] I give a thought, too, to the dear Muslim immigrants that are beginning the fast of Ramadan, with best wishes for abundant spiritual fruits. The Church is near to you in the search for a more dignified life for yourselves and for your families. I say to you "O' scia'!"
Upon hearing the pope use a friendly greeting in the local dialect, the crowd responded with a sound round of applause. Some 0,000 people thronged the local sports field. On an island that has 6,000 permanent residents, this means that people came from afar, many of them immigrants.
As he made his way among the festive and enthusiastic crowd after landing on the island, Francis greeted those present, touched and kissed children and shook hands. "You're one of us," said one of the many signs.
"This morning," Francis said, "in light of the Word of God that we have heard, I want to say a few words to, above all, provoke the conscience of all, pushing us to reflect and to change certain attitudes in concrete ways."
"Adam, where are you?" This is the first question that God addresses to man after sin. "Where are you Adam?" Adam is disoriented and has lost his place in creation because he thought to become powerful, to dominate everything, to be God. And harmony was broken, the man erred - and this is repeated even in relations with his neighbour, who is no longer a brother to be loved, but simply someone who disturbs my life, my well-being. And God puts the second question: "Cain, where is your brother?" The dream of being powerful, of being as great as God, even of being God, leads to a chain of errors that is a chain of death, leads to shedding the blood of the brother!"
"These two questions resonate even today, with all their force! So many of us, even including myself, are disoriented, we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live, we don't care, we don't protect that which God has created for all, and we are unable to care for one another. And when this disorientation assumes worldwide dimensions, we arrive at tragedies like the one we have seen."
"Where is your brother?" the voice of his blood cries even to me, God says. This is not a question addressed to others: it is a question addressed to me, to you, to each one of us. These our brothers and sisters seek to leave difficult situations in order to find a little serenity and peace, they seek a better place for themselves and for their families-but they found death. How many times do those who seek this not find understanding, do not find welcome, do not find solidarity! And their voices rise up even to God!"
"Before arriving here," the pope heard about "traffickers [. . .] who exploit the poverty of others, people who live off the misery of others. How much these people have suffered! Some of them never made it here."
"Who," the pope asks, "is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours? Nobody! That is our answer: It isn't me; I don't have anything to do with it; it must be someone else, but certainly not me. Yet God is asking each of us: "Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?" Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: "poor soul...!", and then go on our way. It's not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn't affect me; it doesn't concern me; it's none of my business! Here we can think of Manzoni's character-"the Unnamed". The globalization of indifference makes us all "unnamed", responsible, yet nameless and faceless."
"Adam, where are you?" the pope asked during the Mass. "Where is your brother?" These are the two questions that God puts at the beginning of the story of humanity, and that He also addresses to the men and women of our time, even to us. But I want to set before us a third question. Who among us has wept for these things, and things like this? Who has wept for the deaths of these brothers and sisters? Who has wept for the people who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who wanted something to support their families? We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of 'suffering with': the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel, we have heard the cry, the plea, and the great lament: "Rachel weeping for her children . . . because they are no more." Herod sowed death in order to defend his own well-being, his own soap bubble. And this continues to repeat itself. Let us ask the Lord to wipe out [whatever attitude] of Herod remains in our hearts; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this. 'Who has wept?' Who in today's world has wept."
The answer to such questions is partly found in the pope's gratitude, at the end of the Mass, to the islanders.
"I want to thank you Lampedusans once more, for your example of love, for the example of charity, for the example of welcome you are giving us, you gave us and still give us. The bishop said that Lampedusa is a beacon. May this example be a beacon to the world, so that people can have the courage to welcome those who seek a better life. Thank you for your show of support. I also want to thank you for your tenderness, which I felt in Fr Stefano. On the boat coming here, he told me of what he and his curate do. Thank you and thanks to you, Fr Stefano," who, on listening to these words, was moved to tears.
Before leaving the altar, the Pontiff recited a prayer to Mary, "Stella Maris", saying, among other things: "Protectress of migrants and itinerant people, help with maternal care the men, women and children forced to flee their lands in search of hope and a future. Do not let the encounter with us and our peoples become a source of new and greater slavery and humiliation."
"Shelter of sinners, convert the hearts of those who cause war, hatred and poverty, those who exploit their brothers and their weaknesses, those who engage in the shameful trade of human life."
Before returning to Rome, the pope made a last stop with Fr Stefano Nastasi, parish priest of san Gerlando. In a still enthusiastic ambiance, the Holy Father gave his final thanks to the islanders.
"Thank you," he told the crowd, "for your show of support. May the Lord bless you and help you keep this humane and Christian attitude." (FP)