By Linda Bordoni
In the first five months of 2021, more than 630 men, women and children drowned in the central Mediterranean Sea as they sought a better life in Europe.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the 632 recorded deaths represent an increase of 200 percent compared to last year.
Similar tragedies, the Italian Bishops say, “shake consciences and demand we view the phenomenon of migration with lucidity.”
Day of Prayer
The Episcopal Conference of Italy (CEI) is also inviting all men and women of goodwill to join in prayer on 11 July in memory of all those who died in the Mediterranean and along land routes as they fled poverty, conflict, persecution and climate change.
The date has been chosen to fall on the liturgical Feast of St. Benedict, Patron of Europe. For the occasion, all parishes are asked to read a special "Prayer of the faithful for all migrants and, in particular, for those among them who have lost their lives at sea, sailors in search of a future of hope".
Noting that the dramatic statistics that register migrant deaths at sea show, on average, that four people die on their journeys of hope every day, the Italian Bishops also highlight the existence of new deadly migration routes. They include the Canary Islands, which has had a tremendous escalation in numbers in the last year from the Sahara Desert route, the situation for migrant camps in Libya, and the Balkan routes where many have found themselves in danger and in dire conditions in the past 12 months.
Recalling Pope Francis’ appeal during the 13 June Angelus, the Italian Bishops emphasize that "the Mediterranean has become Europe's largest cemetery," exhorting believers to "open their hearts to refugees," and inviting ecclesial communities “not to forget those who have lost their lives while trying to reach the Italian and European coasts.”
Next Sunday's Day of Prayer, they conclude, will be "a way of remembering and exhorting every Christian to follow the example of the patron saint of Europe, and become a messenger of peace and a teacher of civilization.”