Pope Francis ‘Profoundly Saddened’ by Death of Migrant Father and Child at U.S.-Mexico Border

Pope Francis celebrates a mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi in the parish of Santa Maria Consolatrice in Romes Casal Bertone neighborhood on June 23, 2019. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty

ROME — The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis had seen the photograph of two migrants – a father and his baby daughter – who drowned in the Rio Grande while attempting to cross into the US from Mexico and was “profoundly saddened.”

“With immense sadness, the Holy Father has seen the images of the father and his baby daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande River while trying to cross the border between Mexico and the United States,” said Alessandro Gisotti, the interim Director of the Holy See Press Office.

“The Pope is profoundly saddened by their death and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery,” Gisotti said.

The Salvadorian migrants Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his daughter Valeria, 23-months-old, drowned in the Rio Grande River on Sunday, as they attempted to reach the United States.

The United States bishops also released a statement on the deaths Wednesday, blaming the drowning on “a failed immigration system.”

“The cry of a father and his baby daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande reaches heaven itself. This unspeakable consequence of a failed immigration system, together with growing reports of inhumane conditions for children in the custody of the federal government at the border, shock the conscience and demand immediate action,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the U.S. Bishops Conference (USCCB) and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“We join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in immense sadness, having seen the horrific images of Oscar Martinez and his daughter Angie Valeria who drowned in the Rio Grande Valley while attempting to flee persecution and enter the United States,” they said.

“This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis?” they said.

“Recent reports of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions are appalling and unacceptable for any person in U.S. custody, but particularly for children, who are uniquely vulnerable. Such conditions cannot be used as tools of deterrence,” they added.

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