LAMPEDUSA, Italy, July 8 (UPI) -- Speaking on an Italian island that has been become a refuge for people fleeing North Africa, Pope Francis on Monday condemned indifference toward immigrants.
"We are living in a soap bubble, a situation that makes us indifferent to others," the Catholic leader charged, "indeed which has led to the globalization of indifference," Adnkronos International reported.
His comments before 15,000 people at an open-air mass on Lampedusa alluded to a mid-June incident in which a Tunisian fishing boat is said to have refused to rescue 10 immigrants, causing them to drown.
"The news was like a thorn piercing my heart," Francis said, adding he had come to Lampedusa "to pray that such a tragedy doesn't happen again,"
"Let us pray to have a heart that embraces immigrants," said the pontiff. "God will judge us on how we have treated the most needy," ANSA reported.
The United Nations says almost 8,000 African immigrants have landed on Italy's southern coasts this year, with 40 known to have died in the attempt.
More than 160 refugees from Eritrea came ashore as Francis' plane landed, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.
The pope also sent a message of support to Muslims on the eve of their holy month of Ramadan.
"The church is close to you in your search for better lives for yourselves and your families," he said.