Vatican City, July 5 (IANS/AKI) Pope Francis will visit migrants on Italy's southernmost island of Lampedusa and "weep for the dead", papal secretary Alfred Xuereb said.
"His visit signals that while there are wealthy, wasteful people in the North, there are people who come to us in search of a better life but instead are often greeted with death," Xuereb said.
In his first trip as pontiff outside the Rome area, Pope Francis will visit Lampedusa Monday and celebrate mass with migrants at an immigration centre notorious for its overcrowded conditions.
He will also cast a wreath into the sea to honour the many migrants who have perished during the perilous voyage aboard rickety boats.
During his first private meeting with Pope Francis Thursday, Italy's Premier Enrico Letta praised the pope's "courageous gesture" in visiting Lampedusa, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
Illegal migration picks up during the warmer summer months when sea conditions improve, but thousands of migrants have drowned or died of dehydration during the journey across the Mediterranean.
Lampedusa is the main arrival point for illegal migrants reaching southern Europe by sea and close to 500 migrants have landed on the tiny island since Monday, said Pietro Bartolo, the island's chief medical officer.