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Pope Francis visits Lampedusa on first official trip outside Rome

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Pope Francis visits Lampedusa on first official trip outside Rome

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It was a landmark crossing for Pope Francis, as he visited the tiny island of Lampedusa, off Sicily – on his first official trip outside Rome.

Lampedusa is the first port of safety for thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from North Africa every year.

Accompanied by a group of fishing boats from the island, the Pope laid a wreath in the water in memory of those who have lost their lives trying to reach it.

The United Nations reports that 8,000 people have landed on Lampedusa’s coasts in the first half of 2013. During the Arab Spring, dozens of boats arrived every day.

The destination is considered to be a highly symbolic one for a pope who has been vocal about putting the poor at the centre of his papacy.