Palermo's archbishop on Thursday urged the European Union not to turn its back on the drama of migration, less than a week after the bloc agreed a plan with Libya to stop the people-smuggling boats setting sail.
"As people flee war and death, we all need to stay aboard the raft of solidarity," said Monsignor Corrado Lorefice.
"This is our only anchor of salvation,"he told a seminar on migration taking place in the Sicilian capital.
European Union leaders meeting in Malta last Friday agreed to a plan aimed at stemming the influx of migrants to Italy from Libya, including 200 million euros to help strengthen its coastguard.
But Lorefice urged Italy and other EU nations "to create a culture of welcome" rather than creating "barriers and walls".
"Europe should pride it self on this and not fall prey to fear," he said.
Sicily is one of the main entry points for the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees who have reached Europe by boat in recent years.
The tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa's mayor Giusi Nicolini, and the Greek island of Kos's mayor Spyridon Galinos won Sweden's Olof Palme Prize this year for their "inspiring" leadership in the migration crisis.
Together with their citizens, Galinos and Nicolini "opened their minds and societies for fellow human beings fleeing from war, terror, and misery," the Olof Palme Memorial Fund said in a statement in January.