Pope Francis denounces ‘pain and shame’ of Mediterranean migrant deaths

MILAN (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday urged politicians to address the “open wound” of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, saying he had been praying for the 41 people who died in a shipwreck earlier this month.

“With both pain and shame we must declare that, since the start of the year, already almost 2,000 men, women and children have died in that sea while attempting to reach Europe,” Francis said after the weekly Angelus prayer.

“I encourage the political and diplomatic forces who are trying to heal this wound in a spirit of solidarity and brotherhood, as well as the efforts of those who work to prevent shiprwrecks and rescue migrants.”

Deadly disasters are frequents as migrants try to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. More than 22,000 people have died or gone missing in its waters since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Port officials on the Italian island of Sicily recovered one body on Sunday after a boat carrying 13 migrants capsized on Saturday night off the nearby island of Marettimo, ANSA news agency reported. Another person was also presumed to have died.

On Saturday, six people died after a migrant boat trying to cross the Channel from France to Britain capsized early on Saturday, and another two people were possibly missing, French authorities said.

The pope also called for prayers for Ukraine and for the victims of the wildfires in Maui in Hawaii. The death toll from those fires reached 93 on Saturday, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.

(Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Frances Kerry)