The bishops of Malta and Gozo have written to European bishops urging them to insist with their governments on action to help migrants stranded at sea.

The letter, by Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Auxiliary bishop Joseph Galea Curmi and Gozo bishop Mario Grech, was addressed to the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union.

"Ironically, as we Catholics were celebrating the birth of Our Lord who was rejected at birth, a group of 32 migrants was refused shelter by Europe after being rescued at sea off Libya. They have now been out at sea on a rescue vessel for no less than 13 days, only being allowed to enter Maltese territorial waters yesterday, Wednesday 2nd January, to shelter from a storm.

"A second group of 17 migrants rescued by another NGO vessel has been stranded at sea for five days," the bishops wrote. 

READ: Archbishop reiterates appeal for solidarity with migrants

"One can only imagine the added suffering endured by those men, women and children, whose only ‘fault’ is that of fleeing a cruel environment in hope for a better life, one which respects the human dignity we Catholics and Europeans strongly promote as one of our fundamental values.

"This situation, which is now in desperate need of action, has prompted us Maltese Bishops to repeatedly appeal to the leaders of our country to express solidarity in a tangible way."

They said that despite the constraints on receptivity due to its small size and the high population density, Malta is playing an important role in rescuing and when possible relocating migrants.

In recent days, the Armed Forces of Malta rescued 249 migrants and brought them to Malta.  The Church in Malta was cooperating with the Malta Government to offer accommodation and hospitality to these migrants, the bishops wrote. 

"We understand that such complex situations require a European solution, which is why we urge you to invite the Episcopal Conferences across Europe to take similar action and appeal to the leaders of their respective countries.

"At the same time, we invite Catholics across Europe to strongly pray that this missionary continent will cherish the Christian values that have formed its identity by showing solidarity and saving our brothers and sisters in need," the bishops said.

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