Creating new perspectives since 2009

Pope backs Italian migrant rescue group targeted by prosecutors

December 20, 2023 at 11:43 am

Pope Francis on November 22, 2023 [Barış Seçkin/Anadolu Agency]

Pope Francis today spoke out in favour of an Italian migrant sea rescue charity whose members are facing charges of abetting illegal immigration, Reuters reports.

A judge is due to decide on 14 February whether Luca Casarini and five others from the Mediterranea Saving Humans charity should go to trial over the accusations.

“They do a good job, they save a lot of people, a lot of people,” Francis said about the organisation during his weekly audience at the Vatican.

Greeting a delegation from the charity present at the audience, the pope said they “go out at sea to save the poor people who flee from slavery [in] Africa.”

The delegation included Casarini, a former far-left activist well known in Italy, who has recently aligned himself with the Catholic Church.

WATCH: Needed but not welcome, the importance of migrants in society

Casarini, who is often attacked by anti-migrant, pro-government newspapers in Italy, was a special guest at the bishops’ summit, or synod, which the pope presided over in October.

Mediterranea has been indicted in Ragusa, Sicily, over a 2020 operation in which its vessel picked up 27 migrants from a Danish cargo ship and took them to Italy.

The migrants, including a pregnant woman, had been stranded on the ship for more than a month after being rescued from a wooden dinghy.

The company operating the cargo ship, Maersk Tankers, later paid a firm linked to Mediterranea about €125,000 ($136,950.00), a money transfer that prosecutors allege was connected with a possible breach of Italy’s immigration laws.

The charity says it was just a spontaneous donation.