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The White Wreath of the Lampedusa Island: On Pope Francis’ visit to Japan

Hiroko Yagasaki

The Lampedusa Island, located on the clear Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Italy, is so a difficult region where frequent accidents happen that many African refugees desperately departed to Europe are unfortunately killed. On July 2013, the new pope Francis visited the Island to toss a white wreath into the sea for those who have never been mourned, I heard. The flower symbolizes life, so the circle eternity. This story brings tears to my eyes whenever I remember it, imaging the beautiful contrast of the Mediterranean blue and white flowers was a symbol of grief.

Later I came to know that Pope Francis himself is a descendant of emigrants and he could not be indifferent to such hardship. We are often connected to those who have the same kinds of pain: hardship, sadness and loneliness. Sharing pain generates so deep a connection. Then the white wreath is a symbol of affectionate remembrance of the others, embracing the pain.

Reading classics, I often think over the human being as the image of God. We human contain the whole world in ourselves, but at the same time, we are being the likeness of God transcending the created world. Macrina, a saint in the 4th century, in "On the Soul and the Resurrection", a work of her brother St. Gregory of Nyssa, said: suppose liken God to the Sun, the human being is like a piece of glass reflecting sunlight. Then, it results that, in a sense, our memory reflects God's memory. The gesture of Pope dedicating the wreath seems to not only connect human beings but also declare that the forgotten people are in the memory of God eternally.

If the role of the clergy is to tie the believers to God, being human, the image of God, itself has a kind of clerical nature, that ties this world to God. We can communicate messages that people forgotten in society are written in God’s memory with the conscious use of memory and action. Sometimes the common greeting “I pray for you” will bring a great consolation like the wreath of Pope Francis.



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