Archbishop Charles Scicluna called for a moment of prayer towards the end of the yearly Santa Marija mass, directed towards “our brothers and sisters who are in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, waiting for Europe to open the gates of mercy”.
The mass took place at the Mosta parish church, as is tradition, where the church was packed with people to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption.
“We give our support to our authorities who do everything that they can, but help from all of Europe is needed to carry this heavy burden,” he continued.
There are currently two Search and Rescue vessels out at sea with 501 people on board – 151 people remain on board the Open Arms boat, while 356 people are currently on the Ocean Viking.
The Nationalist Party and its leader, Adrian Delia, have twice called on the government to open its ports to the hundreds of rescued migrants who remain stranded on the NGO vessels.
The party said it understands that Malta has its limitations and it cannot assume on its own the collective responsibility of the European Union.
But in such a situation, we have to hold on to our Christian values, the PN had previously said. Malta cannot abandon those who require assistance, it had said, adding that solidarity, altruism and charity remain values that define us as a nation. Malta should not make the same mistake other countries are making, the PN said.
On Tuesday a juvenile court in Sicily also ruled that Italian authorities violated national law and international conventions by blocking 28 unaccompanied minors from entering Italy. Open Arms made the court ruling available and says that the children are suffering “physical and mental distress” after enduring “psychological traumas” in Libyan detention camps.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, also called on European governments to allow the immediate disembarkation of 507 people recently rescued on the Central Mediterranean who remain stranded at sea.
Many are reportedly survivors of appalling abuses in Libya and are from refugee-producing countries. They are in need of humanitarian assistance and some have already expressed an intention to seek international protection.
“This is a race against time,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean. “Storms are coming and conditions are only going to get worse. To leave people who have fled war and violence in Libya on the high seas in this weather would be to inflict suffering upon suffering. They must be immediately allowed to dock, and allowed to receive much-needed humanitarian aid.”
During his homily, the Archbishop shared his thoughts on why he believed the yearly feast is celebrated, mainly revolving around the many aspects of Jesus Christ’s mother, Mary’s life and significance.