Pope Francis at the Regina Coeli: Mediterranean Migrant Deaths Are a ‘Moment of Shame’

The pope gave his Regina Coeli address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where pilgrims stood spaced apart to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Pope Francis prays the Regina Coeli for Pentecost Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica on May 20, 2018.
Pope Francis prays the Regina Coeli for Pentecost Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica on May 20, 2018. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / CNA/EWTN)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Sunday that the recent deaths of 130 migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea marked “a moment of shame.”

Speaking after the recitation of the Regina Coeli April 25, the pope referred to reports that the migrants died despite SOS calls being issued when their inflatable boat sank off the coast of Libya last week.

He said: “I confess I am extremely sad over the tragedy that has once again taken place in the Mediterranean. One hundred thirty migrants died in the sea. They are people. They are human beings who begged for help in vain for two whole days — help that never arrived.”

“Brothers and sisters, let us all ask ourselves about this umpteenth tragedy. It is a shameful moment. Let us pray for these brothers and sisters, and for all those who continue to die in these tragic crossings.” 

“Let us also pray for those who can help but prefer to look the other way. Let us pray in silence for them…”

The pope gave his Regina Coeli address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where pilgrims stood spaced apart to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

He observed that April 25 marked the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, whose theme this year is “St. Joseph: The Dream of Vocation.” 

“Let us thank the Lord so that he might continue to raise up in the Church people who, for love of Him, consecrate themselves to the proclamation of the Gospel and service to their brothers and sisters,” he said.

He noted that on Sunday morning he ordained nine new priests for the Diocese of Rome in St. Peter’s Basilica. 

“Let us ask the Lord to send good laborers to work in his vineyard and that he might multiply vocations to the consecrated life,” he said.

In his reflection before the Regina Coeli, the pope meditated on the Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, called Good Shepherd Sunday.

He said that John 10:11-18 presented Jesus as “the true shepherd who defends, knows and loves his sheep.”

He said: “The ‘mercenary’ is the opposite of the Good Shepherd, the one who does not care about the sheep because they are not his. He does the job only for pay and is not concerned about defending them: when a wolf arrives, he flees and abandons them.” 

“Instead, Jesus, the true shepherd, defends us always and saves us from so many difficult situations, dangerous situations through the light of his word and the strength of his presence that we always experience if we want to listen, every day.”

The pope said it was consoling to know that as well as defending us, Jesus also knows each one of us personally.

“We are not a “mass”, a “multitude” for Him, no. We are unique individuals, each with his or her own story, he knows us with our own story, each with his or her own value, both because they have been created and have been redeemed by Christ,” he said.

Above all, he commented, Jesus the Good Shepherd loves his flock.

“Christ’s love is not selective; it embraces everyone,” he said. “He Himself reminds us of this in today’s Gospel when he says: ‘And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd’ (John 10:16).” 

“These words testify to his universal concern: He is everyone’s shepherd. Jesus wants everyone to be able to receive the Father’s love and encounter God.”

He said that the Church was called to continue Christ’s mission.

“Beyond those who participate in our communities, there is the majority, many people, who do so only at particular moments or never. But this does not mean they are not God’s children: the Father entrusts everyone to Jesus the Good Shepherd, and he gave his life for everyone,” he said.

After leading the Regina Caeli prayer, the pope said that on April 23 three priests and seven lay people were beatified in Santa Cruz del Quiché, Guatemala.

He recalled that the Spanish priest José Maria Gran Cirera and his nine companions, who belonged to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, were killed between 1980 and 1991. He highlighted their defense of the poor at a time when the Catholic Church faced persecution.

“With lively faith in Christ, they were heroic witnesses of justice and love. May their example make us more generous and courageous in living the Gospel,” he said, asking for a round of applause in honor of them.

The pope expressed his closeness to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines following volcanic eruptions.

“I assure you of my prayers. I bless all those who are participating in relief efforts and assistance,” he said.

He also stressed his nearness to victims of a fire at a hospital for coronavirus patients in Baghdad, a city he visited during his March trip to Iraq. 

“As of now, there are 82 people who have died,” he said. “Let us pray for all of them.”

Finally, he greeted the people of Rome and pilgrims. 

“In particular, I greet the families and friends of the newly ordained priests, as well as the community of the Pontifical German-Hungarian College who performed the traditional pilgrimage of the seven churches today,” he said.

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