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Pope backs Italian migrant rescue group targeted by prosecutors

Vatican City
Reuters

Pope Francis on Wednesday spoke out in favour of an Italian migrant sea rescue charity whose members are facing charges of abetting illegal immigration. 

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

Pope Francis poses for a group photo as he meets with Mbengue Nyimbilo Crepin, nicknamed Pato, and the delegation from the Mediterranea Saving Humans, at the Vatican, on 17th November, 2023.

Pope Francis poses for a group photo as he meets with Mbengue Nyimbilo Crepin, nicknamed Pato, and the delegation from the Mediterranea Saving Humans, at the Vatican, on 17th November, 2023. PICTURE: Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters/File photo

“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.

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, 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.

 

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