A Lampedusa Link to Assisi
As you exit the upper level of the Basilica di San Francesco, look left at the salt-encrusted, wounded blue boat, paint peeling off like scabs, faded life jacket stretched out on the prow. A boat of salvation: nine immigrants arrived safely on the island of Lampedusa (south of Sicily, but closer to Africa and southernmost point of Europe) after a voyage of hell from Libya.
On the lawn behind the boat, a hedge spells out “PAX” (“peace”) and above it, another hedge sculpts the Tau cross, beloved of St. Francis. Last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the Tau was the symbol of salvation in the book of Ezekiel.The immigrants’ boat of salvation lying on its side before the St. Francis cross of salvation. A potent message.
A plaque near the boat tells the story, relates the symbolism. The closing line sums it up: “A boat without a name on which nine people traveled but it represents the thousands pleading for help and with the right to have international protection.”
All nine on the boat survived. But since 2014, the Mediterranean sea has become a cemetery for over ten thousand immigrants fleeing hunger, persecution, warfare. The island of Lampedusa is often the first stop on the long, arduous trek to a better life.
The story of the boat’s significance on the plaque is entitled “La Barca e La Speranza” (“The Boat and Hope”). That wounded boat outside the Basilica di San Francesco is a reminder of the first leg of painful journey….a journey of hope.
Read about Pope Francis and Lampedusa
Read about the immigrants and Lampedusa
Read more on why we love Lampedusa
Click here for more news on the Papal visit to Lampedusa in 2013