LAMPEDUSA, Sicily – Pope Francis on Monday denounced the “globalization of indifference” that greets migrants who risk their lives trying to reach Europe, as he traveled to the farthest reaches of Italy to draw attention to their plight and to mourn those who never made it.

The tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa, a treeless strip of rock four miles long, is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland and is the main port of entry into Europe for African migrants smuggled by boat from Libya or Tunisia.

Francis decided last week to make Lampedusa his first pastoral trip outside of Rome, compelled by a particularly deadly crossing in which a dozen migrants lost their lives.

Francis greeted newly arrived Africans and during an open-air Mass on the island’s soccer field, thanked the residents for welcoming so many men and women over the years.

But the core reason for the visit, he said, was to mourn those who died trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

He tossed a wreath of flowers into the sea in their memory, calling their deaths a “thorn in the heart” that occurs so often it is simply ignored.

“Who wept for these people who were aboard the boat?” Francis asked in his homily. “For the young mothers who brought their babies? For these men who wanted to support their families?”

“We are a society that has forgotten how to cry,” he said.

Dozens of fishing boats accompanied Francis’ coast guard ship as it pulled into port, a seaborne motorcade to honor the first pope to visit an island that often feels it has been abandoned by Europe to process the thousands of would-be immigrants who come ashore each year.

“Pope Francis, only you can save us,” read a banner on one of the boats.

“Welcome among the least,” said a poster with an Argentine and Italian flag dangling from an apartment building.