The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will say a special Mass for Migrants and for migrant rescue workers next Monday 8th July, on the sixth anniversary of his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa. The Pope’s gesture comes after German ship captain Carola Rackete was arrested June 29 on Lampedusa for defying Italian authorities and docking a migrant rescue ship, the Sea Watch 3, on the island with forty migrants aboard without authorisation.

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For the record

“In memory of the 6th anniversary of his visit to Lampedusa, on Monday, 8 July, the Holy Father Pope Francis, will celebrate a Mass for Migrants, at 11:00, in St Peter’s Basilica. Around 250 people will participate in the celebration, among whom will be migrants, refugees and those who are dedicated to saving their lives”, interim Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement.

“Taking part in the Mass, presided over by the Pope at the Altar of the Chair of St Peter, will be only those persons invited by the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to whom the Holy Father has entrusted the organization of the event”, continued Gisotti, who added that although the Pope’s Mass will be broadcast on Vatican Media journalists will not take part in the event.

The Pope’s spokesman said Francis desires the Mass to be as meditative as possible “in the remembrance of how many have lost their lives fleeing war and misery, and so as to encourage those who strive day after day to sustain, accompany and welcome migrants and refugees”.

The intrigue

Along with Pope Francis, a whole host of Church leaders, from Italy to Rackete’s native Germany, have come out in support of the young captain.

“I think that human life must be preserved in any way. This must be the North Star that guides us, everything else is secondary”, said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican ‘Prime Minister’ and Secretary of State.

“Disobeying the law to save lives is a Christian principle, and it’s fundamental from a human point of view. It’s what this woman captain has done”, declared Gian Carlo Perego, Archbishop of Ferrara and former head of the migrants section in the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedfort-Strohm, head of the Evangelical church in Germany, called Rackete’s arrest a “disgrace for Europe”.

Essen Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck took to Twitter to show his solidarity with Rackete.

“Whoever rescues people from drowning doesn’t belong in prison. I admire the courage of Carola Rackete, the captain of the Sea Watch crew. She stands with her actions for the humane and Christian values of Europe”, declared Overbeck.

“Moral action must not be threatened by the state and made impossible,” added for his part Stefan Heße, Archbishop of Hamburg and the German Bishops’ pointman on migrants, calling for a “new European refugee and migration policy”.

“Every year, thousands die trying to cross the Mediterranean to escape terrible conditions in their homeland”, said Heße, labelling private rescue operations an “indispensable” response to the refugee crisis as long as European states refuse to provide consistent rescue services.

“It is unacceptable to discourage, attack and criminalize the maritime rescuers”, warned Heße.