Agrigento

Pope's visit to Lampedusa 'to be simple'

Francis invited to immigration centre to witness challenges

Pope's visit to Lampedusa 'to be simple'

Agrigento, July 2 - Organizers in Sicily say they want to keep things very simple for Pope Francis when he visits the Sicilian island of Lampedusa next week. "We want to ensure that those three hours spent in Lampedusa by the holy father are peaceful," Monsignor Francesco Montenegro, archbishop of Agrigento, said Tuesday. "We will not do anything in particular, it will be a normal celebration because the pope wants only simply to meet the people of Lampedusa. "And we content ourselves with joy, doing everything with extreme simplicity". The pope will make an official visit to Lampedusa on July 8, when he plans to place a commemorative wreath in the waters off the island in the memories of immigrants who perished trying to reach land. He will also celebrate mass with migrants and local people, the Vatican has said. The pope will be met with a spirit of love, said the pastor of St. Gerlando in Lampedusa, Stefano Nastasi: "I think he will tell us that belief in love is still possible, you can multiply the little that you have". In an interview with Vatican Radio Tuesday, Nastasi said he invited the pope to Lampedusa to witness first-hand the immigration challenges in the area. Lampedusa, which is between Sicily and North Africa, is a main stop-off point for boats carrying migrants trying to enter Italy. Many people, usually packed inside unsafe boats, die each year trying to make the trip from North Africa to Italy and the number of migrants increases annually in the summer months due to improved sea conditions. Francis "intends to pray for those who lost their lives at sea, visit the survivors and refugees, and to encourage the inhabitants of the island to take care of these brothers and sisters in dire need," the Vatican has said.

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