"An open wound": Pope Francis Decries Thousands of Deaths in Mediterranean Sea this Year

Pope Francis blesses the crowd from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the end of his Sunday Angelus address Aug. 13, 2023. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis called attention Sunday to the thousands of people who have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to immigrate to Europe in 2023.

“It is an open wound of our humanity,” he said after reciting the Angelus prayer at the Vatican on Aug. 13. He added that the deaths bring “pain and shame.”

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that 2,175 men, women, and children are either missing or dead in the Mediterranean Sea as of Aug. 13. In 2022, in the same period, the estimated dead and missing was 1,361.

Speaking to a crowd of about 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said he had prayed for the 41 migrants who died in the latest Mediterranean shipwreck tragedy.

Survivors rescued off the coast of the small Italian island of Lampedusa reported the migrant shipwreck on Wednesday, according to CNN.


An estimated 90,763 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea in 2023 as of Aug. 6, a large uptick from the previous year, authorities say.

“I encourage political and diplomatic efforts that seek to heal [the wound of migrant deaths] in a spirit of solidarity and brotherhood,” Pope Francis said on Sunday, “as well as the efforts of all those working to prevent shipwrecks and rescue migrants.”

Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.