VATICAN CITY (AP) — So much for vacation: Pope Francis on Friday will issue his first encyclical and then will travel to Sicily to meet with recently arrived African migrants.
The Vatican announced the pope’s back-to-back agenda on Monday as it still reels from the fallout from a financial scandal that has seen a senior Vatican accountant arrested in a 20 million euro ($26 million) corruption plot.
The Vatican said Francis’ first encyclical, “Light of Faith,” will be released on Friday.
Retired Pope Benedict XVI had planned to issue a final encyclical on faith but resigned before he had time to finish it. The Vatican has long said Francis would likely take elements of Benedict’s draft and make them his own.
An encyclical is the most authoritative teaching a pope can issue. Benedict issued three during his nearly eight-year pontificate, on charity, love and hope.
Francis isn’t a theologian or philosopher and hasn’t written nearly as extensively as his predecessors. He is more a pastoral pope, and his planned trip to Lampedusa island to meet with recently arrived migrants is proof of his priorities.
Tens of thousands of clandestine migrants, many from Africa or the Mideast, head to Italian shores each year. Lampedusa is their frequent destination, closer to Africa than the Italian mainland.
Those without jobs awaiting them or who are ineligible for asylum are sent back to their homelands. But while that screening process takes its course, many are held in overcrowded detention facilities, where riots are common. Lampedusa has had its fair share of such problems, particularly tensions with the locals, since the population of migrants swells during peak tourist season in the summer.
In a statement, the Vatican said Francis had been “profoundly” affected by the recent arrivals on Lampedusa and reports of lives lost at sea by migrants who are often packed into overcrowded smuggling boats.
It said Francis is going to pray for those who have died, visit with those who survived and also “encourage residents on the island and recall everyone’s sense of responsibility so that they take care of these brothers and sisters in need.”
Francis’ busy schedule comes in his first week of summer vacation, with his weekly Wednesday audiences canceled through the beginning of September. Unlike his predecessors, Francis won’t be vacationing at the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo but will remain at the Vatican hotel he calls home.
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