One hundred and seventeen days after elevating to the papacy, Pope Francis took his first official trip outside the Vatican to visit the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa. An island closer to Tunisia than Sicily. An island that, since 1998, has been a transit point for migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. Holding religious objects made from the wood of boats carrying migrants that had crashed against the island’s rocky shore, the Pope opened his homily with, “Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death.”
The Pope’s trip to Lampedusa, stripped of the pomp and circumstance of typical papal visits, was the first of many instances where he would draw the world’s attention to the plight of migrants.