Pope Francis gifted painting by a migrant from Africa
By Lisa Zengarini
During his nearly two-hour flight from Rome to Malta, Pope Francis was greeted with a special gift: a painting made by Daniel, an African migrant he will meet on Sunday afternoon at the “Pope John XXIII Peace Lab” in Hal Far.
The picture was consigned to him by Spanish journalist Eva Fernández, of the Cope Catholic network.
It represents Daniel’s own shipwreck as he travelled on a rubber dinghy boat across the Mediterranean to enter Europe, leaving behind his companions whom he wasn’t able to save.
A scarring experience
This tragedy has left a deep scar in Daniel's heart. "I'm not sure if this painting reflects what I really feel, because my heart is still bleeding,” he says in a letter accompanying the painting. “A part of my soul was ripped out that day.”
Daniel offers a poignant recount of those tragic moments: “No matter how much I stretched out my hands out, I couldn't save my brothers from death,” he explains.
“The only one I could have dragged onto the dinghy did not want me to save him when he realized that I would not be able to save the others. His aim was to earn money in Europe to help his mother in Nigeria. Another of my brothers wanted to become a professional footballer,” he adds. “Another one dreamed of becoming an artist. That night, they drowned in the Mediterranean before my eyes.”
Welcoming migrants as the Maltese welcomed St. Paul
This is the second picture Pope Francis receives from Daniel. His story is of particular significance in this Apostolic Journey, which is focused on the need to welcome, promote, protect and integrate migrants and refugees.
Pope Francis has frequently echoed that call, and during his two-day visit he will likely link it to the welcome the Maltese people gave the Apostle Paul, when he shipwrecked off Malta and was shown “unusual kindness” by the islanders (Acts 28:2), as highlighted by motto of the Papal trip.
Malta, the European Union’s smallest country with half a million inhabitants, has long been on the front line of the flow of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
His journey comes on the backdrop of the massive exodus of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.