On arriving at Lampedusa, Italy, Pope Francis met 50 selected migrants including men, women and children who were both Christian and Muslim and listened to their stories about their perilous voyage from North Africa.
Lampedusa is just 70.2 miles from Tunisia and has been the first point of entry to Europe for more than 200,000 refugees and irregular migrants who have passed through the island since 1999, according to the U.N.'s refugee agency.
Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives on the island.
The pope held a mass for 15,000 people under blazing sun at an outdoor sporting center on the island. Standing at an altar made of the wooden remnants of refugee boats and dressed in purple robes normally reserved for lent and mourning, Pope Francis gave an emotional homily focused on "global indifference" to the refugee and irregular migrant problem.
Migrants and residents gather for the Holy Mass.
Pope Francis made his decision to visit Lampedusa after hearing about the deaths of refugees whose boat capsized off the coast of Sicily in late June.
"With one short visit, the pope is drawing attention to three main issues; the plight of poor immigrants, problem of human trafficking, the growing gap between rich and poor in the world," said the Vatican's media advisor Greg Burke ahead of the visit.
Pope Francis blesses a child. The pontiff thanked the people of Lampedusa along with the rescue workers, NGOs and volunteers who man the centers on the island where refugees are taken.
The pontiff waves to the faithful after visiting San Gerlando church.
A faithful has "Stop clowning with Lampedusa" painted on her arms as the pope led the mass. "The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference," said Pope Francis.