Pope Francis has expressed his “pain and sadness” at the numerous deaths of migrants who lost their lives in the English Channel as they tried to cross into Britain from France, as he paid tribute to a priest who helped rescue those in danger.
Francis said the world was “desperately” in need of helping migrants to integrate into their host countries and he called on parishes and religious orders “to accompany them, especially when they cross difficult borders”.
“These two events [the drowning of migrants and the last days of Father Andrew Chesnut] have generated a great deal of pain and sadness in my heart. The whole world has been saddened by them,” Francis told people at the end of the day-long devotion to the Virgin Mary at the Colosseum.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Vatican official overseeing migration issues, said the Vatican’s views on migration had been presented to the United Nations’ top migration agency.
The pope echoed the Vatican’s sympathy for migrants in Africa and Asia and he stressed that Catholics had a duty to help the needy.
Some 600 migrants were plucked to safety off the coast of Kent last month when their dinghy sank, claiming at least 24 lives, and a further 43 drowned as they struggled to make it across the Channel to France.
The pair who died were named by authorities as 18-year-old Lyle Menzies from Coventry and 17-year-old Ola Eniola from Redcar, east Cleveland. A search was launched after a search was abandoned by British rescuers and they went missing.
“We must remember them not only because of the suffering they experienced, but because they started their journeying in a place of hope and ended in despair. They remained hopeful and they wanted to reach a better life, but the British waters do not give that,” Francis said.
A French police spokeswoman told the Guardian on Thursday that around 15 migrants had reached the Channel at dawn on Wednesday.