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Priest in Lampedusa speaks of heartbreak over shipwreck deaths

By on Friday, 4 October 2013

A  flag with the word 'Vergogna' (disgrace) in Lampedusa after last year's disaster (AP)

A flag with the word 'Vergogna' (disgrace) in Lampedusa after last year's disaster (AP)

A parish priest on the Italian island of Lampedusa has spoken of his deep sorrow at seeing the bodies of the shipwrecked victims laid out on the pier.

“It is a massacre! A massacre that must be stopped. One cannot bear all this, at such a high cost,” said Fr Stefano Nastasi, parish priest of the Church of San Gerlando of Lampedusa. “I was on the pier. I’ve been there,” he explained, “but then I moved away. Too many dead. Too many.”

Today at 6pm local time a Mass will be celebrated by Fr Nastasi in Lampedusa for the victims of yesterday’s shipwreck carrying around 500 African immigrants, followed by a candlelit procession around the island. Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento is expected to attend.

On this national day of mourning in Italy, shops are closed and there is great participation from residents, who dwell near the pier intended to accommodate the bodies extracted from the wreckage. Schools will observe a minute of silence.

Throughout the night, the search for survivors continued and so far 111 bodies have been recovered but tens more are still missing. Of the 500 passengers, mainly from Somalia and Eritrea, 155 have been rescued.

The immigrants were fleeing war and dictatorship in their countries when the overloaded boat in which they were travelling caught fire after a blanket was set alight to attract the coast guard’s attention to their position.

Divers have been searching for the tens of bodies still trapped in the shipwreck about fifty metres below the sea. However, the worsening waves are hindering search and rescue efforts.

The 111 bodies recovered so far, including those of a boy and a girl, aged three and two, have been taken to an airport hangar normally used by the emergency services helicopters.

In Britain, the Apostleship of the Sea has called for prayers and action following the Lampedusa shipwreck.

Apostleship of the Sea national director Martin Foley said: “Our first task is to pray for those who have perished and to remember their families and loved ones.

“Just three months ago, Pope Francis visited the island and called for action to address the causes driving these migrants to make this perilous journey.

“This tragedy must not be compounded by the tragedy of indifference to the complex causes of these repeated sinkings.

“The fact that this tragedy and its causes will soon be out of the news highlights the ‘globalisation of indifference’, something our port chaplains continue to encounter.

“The not insignificant number of cases of abandonment, stowaways, non-payment of wages and other abuses show that indifference and the exploitation of others as a source of income are still present in the maritime world.”

  • NatOns

    A stark presentation of the reality of the human condition – shipwrecked, soft-soaped, and serialised .. like an ever-repeating nightmare. This is not the ‘vision’ set before the self-interest of politicians or their electorate, that perspective is one of progress and control. Progression toward what exactly, and measured against what in particular .. other than an unspoken craving for more control .. is never specified; it is a matter of ideologically blind faith (sic).

    So – if the Holy Father needs reminding of this Truth of Faith, which I trust he does not – it is not the City of God that needs to strip off graced worldliness (aka: the Incarnate Word), it is the City of the World which needs to address the divine spirit set in its midst – which is its only true Peace – then it strip off its worldly-mindedness as did Jonah’s Nineveh (especially for those called to be among God’s People who are determined to cling to the sinking ship and eagerly drown with it) for even dry land has its perils.

  • John Fisher

    There are a number of issues. 1/ When individuals seek to leave their country of ethnicity and birth to illegally intrude into another country or land it is wrong. It must be opposed. All of this is about money. 2/ When they of their own will engage in a dangerous and illegal method of getting there and they perish they should only blame themselves. Just as when a person suicides or engages in dangerous behaviour it is their fault.
    Europe is not for others who have no ethnic link to it!
    The age of colonialism and Europe will not and should not be colonised by foreigners. Countries have a right to maintain their own linguistic, national, ethnic identity and anything that upsets this wthin Eourope MUST be opposed.

  • Dave

    Well, thank God that Pope Francis feels quite differently about drowned children, the racial purity of the Reich, etc.

  • John Fisher

    This is NOT about racial purity. This is about Europe being thrown into turmoil by immigration which causes all sorts of instability. I repeat we are not responsible in any way for the death of stupid people who risk there lives in this way. They are responsible and yes it is sad. The responsibility is with them. We cannot stop others making stupid choices and certainly it would be wrong to be wishy washy!

  • Dave

    –Rather than ‘racial purity’ then, apply the preferred euphemism for cleansing Europe from those ‘others who have no ethnic link to it’ as you put it.

    But no, it is about tragic deaths of dozens of people, including very young children, and its implications about the desperate plights of people whose homelands have been destroyed by war. Thank God our Pope and the Church in general, considers this more important than the adverse effects of admitting people of a shade darker complexion into Europe.

  • Christi

    I live in the United States because long ago my ancestors chose to leave their homeland and intrude into another country of ethnicity, the Native Americans.

    This story is about the suffering of human beings. Are we not our brother’s keeper?