NEWS: Pope Criticizes 'People-Smugglers'

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Wed, 2 Dec 1998 06:39:06 -0800 (PST)


Pope Criticizes 'People-Smugglers'
November 29, 1998

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II lashed out Sunday at people who
traffic in human beings, saying the deaths last week of immigrants trying
to reach Italian shores would haunt the smugglers.

On Friday, a speeding motor boat with smugglers at the helm crashed into a
dinghy filled with ethnic Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo,
killing four people, including a baby. Four others were missing and
presumed dead.

``As I pray for the victims of the shipwreck, I cannot but express the
strongest condemnation of those who, because of the thirst for money, trade
in the misery of so many poor people,'' the pope said. ``The dead will
weigh on their consciences.''

John Paul spoke after a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica at which he presented
a papal bull offering the faithful new chances for forgiveness in the year
2000.

The bull upholds a 700-year-old tradition of celebrating church anniversary
years, or Jubilees, by offering ``indulgences'' -- acts of penance that
allow forgiveness for sins.

In his homily, John Paul reminded the faithful that ``God comes toward us,
whether we have searched for him, whether we have ignored him, or even when
we have avoided him.

``He is the first to approach, with open arms like a loving and merciful
father.''

Afterward, the pope spoke out against the ``unscrupulous traffickers'' in
human beings.

Friday's collision was just the latest in a series of fatalities at sea
involving would-be immigrants and the people who profit from them. The
accident occurred about 22 miles east of Brindisi, on Italy's southeastern
coast.

The pope urged authorities to crack down on human smuggling and to improve
conditions so people wouldn't be forced to leave their homelands to seek a
better life.

Would-be immigrants often pay thousands of dollars for passage to Italy
from the Balkans, Turkey, North Africa and even Asia. With its long coast,
Italy is a favorite destination for clandestine arrivals. In the past week
alone, Italian authorities have intercepted nearly 1,000 immigrants on the
southern coast.


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