2015 (EN)

Pope Francesco met a delegation of Italian Coastguard in Saint Marta along with the Minister Lupi who testified the service carried out in sea in the difficult operations of aid to refugees and migrants.
Along with the Minister of Infrastructures and  Transports Maurizio Lupi, joined the meeting:

  • Felicio Angrisano, Admiral Commander of Coastguard
  • Giovanni Pettorino, Admiral Chief of the Operating Unit (he led all the most difficult operations)
  • Ciro Petrunelli, Lieutenant (join  the rescue of the Ezaden motor-ship with hundred of migrants on board)
  • Antonello Fava, Lieutenant, (guided the rescue of the motor-ship Blue Sky with hundred of migrants on board)
  • Marco Ancora, Marshal (he too joined the rescue of the Ezaden motor-ship with hundred of migrants on board)
  • Salvatore Finocchiaro, assistant chief (joined many participations of aid by helicopter)

Minister Lupi wrote to the Pope asking a meeting in behalf of  the 11,000 men and women of Coast Guard, who for years are putting in danger their lives in aid operations and sometimes, instead to be thanked, they are accused to help traffickers and terrorists.
The Pope conceded a meeting which was held in a informal way in a room of Saint Marta. Everyone spoke, sharing his experience and the Pope listened carefully, and took the floor as last, thanking them and quoting the words of people who had already spoken. In its starting greetings, Lupi, as an example of  the misunderstanding which affects this work of rescue and aid of human lives, mentioned the last week episode, when, after the rescue of 200 people, they were threatened  with weapons by traffickers who intended to get the boat back.
“They have been accused of compliance, but instead they have been absolutely responsible, because there were 200 migrants on board and among them there were also many pregnant women. Should they had to engage in a armed conflict putting in risk the lives saved just some minutes before?”. Everyone shared his experience and Admiral Angrisano  remembered that since 1991 to today Coast Guard saved more than 460.000 migrants lost in sea. Marshal Ancora added: “think about how many children were born from the people we saved”.
The Marshal Emiliano Venuti  on 20 Decembers 2014 join with a rescue team on a boat out of control, dropped in the  cargo Merkur 1 that, left by traffickers with automatic pilot on and which was sailing without control, risking to crash on Sicilian shores.The Marshal Venuti intervened and put the automatic pilot off, taking full control of the ship, which has been rescued. The 800 migrants were all saved. Port Captaincy of Reggio Calabria, on 24 September 2014 joined the rescue of a ship with 774 migrants Sicily Channel. Besides, the Port Captaincy helps migrants also after they have been rescued. Marianna Mari was really touched by the event: “The eyes of these people are unforgettable. During the travel their expressions change from fear to hope and to joy when they finally see the Italian shores”.
An other sailor confessed his “ fear” when on New Year's Eve, while he was at home with his family he was called in order to take part in aid on an old cargo vessel “with the blocked rudder and 900 people in sea with waves 9 meters high”, the most touching thing , the sailor said, was the applause of the migrants when I succeeded to take control of the ship.”  After have listened to the concrete, touching and impressive experiences of the sailors, at the end of the meeting the Pope expressed his appreciation for the work  carried out with courage and dedication. Among other things, He said that the migrants issue cannot be solved all of a sudden, but it stands more than the aid issue, but as first, when a life is in danger, we must help it: “when there is a injured, the first thing to do is to cure his injuries”. All the rest comes later.
The Pope remembered his travel to Lampedusa and praised the solidarity of Lampedusa citizens with the refugees, even if this can damage the touristic appeal of the island. He said to have sent His accountant, Mons. Krajewski, to participate to the operations of recovery of the deads after the terrible shipwreck of last year (“he came back changed, he was another man” said the Pope accompanying His sentence scrolling His hand first up and after down) and has concluded with these words: “… I admire you and I have to admit that I fell like useless comparing myself to the job which you are doing everyday, putting in danger your lives. I support you as best as I can, with my prayers and good words”.