On the migrant and human trafficking crises, “Our indifference is a sin!”, the Pope has warned, adding – in a burn on those politicians who seek to stop refugee rescue operations in the Mediterranean – that the refugee problem will not be solved “by blocking the ships”.

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At the conclusion of this morning’s audiences, the Holy Father Francis met with refugees recently arrived from Lesbos thanks to the humanitarian corridors and had a cross placed at the entrance to the Apostolic Palace from the Belvedere Courtyard in memory of migrants and refugees.

The following is the full text of the Pope’s address to those present:

Address of the Holy Father

This is the second life jacket I receive as a gift. The first one was given to me a few years ago by a group of rescuers. It belonged to a girl who drowned in the Mediterranean. I gave it to the two undersecretaries from the Migrants and Refugees Section at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. I told them: “This is your mission!” With this I wanted to underline the inescapable commitment of the Church to save the lives of migrants, so that then we could welcome, protect, promote and integrate them.

This second vest, delivered by another group of rescuers just a few days ago, belonged to a migrant who disappeared in the sea last July. No one knows who he was or where he came from. It is only known that his vest was drifting in the central Mediterranean on July 3, 2019, at certain geographical coordinates. We face another death caused by injustice. Yes, because it is injustice that forces many migrants to abandon their lands. It is injustice that forces them to cross deserts and suffer abuse and torture in detention camps. It is injustice that rejects them and causes them to die at sea.

The vest features a cross of colored resin, which is intended to express the spiritual experience that I picked up in the words of the rescuers. In Jesus Christ the cross is a source of salvation, “foolishness to those who are perishing”, says St. Paul, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). In the Christian tradition the cross is a symbol of suffering and sacrifice, but also of redemption and salvation.

This cross is transparent: it represents a challenge to look more closely and always seek the truth. The cross is luminescent: it is to encourage our faith in the resurrection, the triumph of Christ over death. Also the unknown emigrant, who died with the hope of a new life, shares this victory. The rescuers told me how they are learning humanity from the people they manage to save. They revealed to me how in each mission they rediscover the beauty of being a great human family, united in universal fraternity.

I have decided to show here this life jacket, “crucified” on this cross, to remind us that we must keep our eyes open, keep our hearts open; to remind everyone of the indispensable commitment to save every human life, a moral duty that unites believers and non-believers.

How can we fail to hear the desperate cry of so many brothers and sisters who prefer to face a stormy sea rather than die slowly in Libyan detention camps, places of torture and ignoble slavery? How can we remain indifferent to the abuses and violence of which they are innocent victims, leaving them at the mercy of unscrupulous traffickers? How can we “go further”, like the priest and the Levite of the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10, 31-32) , making ourselves responsible for their death? Our indifference is a sin!

I thank the Lord for all those who have decided not to remain indifferent and go out of themselves to rescue the wretched, without asking too many questions about how or why they encounter that poor half-dead person on their path. The problem is not solved by blocking the ships. Serious efforts must be made to empty the detention camps in Libya, evaluating and implementing all possible solutions. We must denounce and prosecute traffickers who exploit and abuse migrants, without fear of revealing their collusion and complicity with institutions. Economic interests must be put aside in order to focus on the person, each person, whose life and dignity are precious in the eyes of God. We must help and save, because we are all responsible for the life of our neighbour, and the Lord will ask us to account for this at the moment of judgment. Thank you.

Now, looking at this life jacket and looking at the cross, let everyone pray silently.

The Lord bless you all.

(Source: Vatican Press Office/Novena translation)

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