VATICAN CITY, APRIL 15, 2011 ( The closing of Europe's borders, given the wave of immigrants and refugees resulting from the conflicts and social crisis in several countries of North Africa, has disappointed the Holy See.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict XVI's secretary of state, expressed this disappointment on Tuesday, reports the semi-official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

"There is no doubt that Europe has disappointed profoundly" in this emergency, said the Italian cardinal. "Europe has lost its profound spirit, a spirit of great solidarity first of all among the peoples of Europe and then among other peoples. Let us think of Africa, which it has abused so much: it seems that Europe has turned its back on it."

The air attacks against Libya's regime, led by European nations, have caused the flight by land from that country of 500,000 people, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Tens of thousands of people have taken to the sea to arrive in Italy or Malta.

According to UNHCR, it is feared that in the crossing from Africa to Europe over the past two weeks, 800 emigrants have lost their lives. In addition to the 250 who died in the shipwreck April 6 in the Sicilian Channel, nothing is known of the 560 people who took to the sea in three barges that never arrived at their destination.

Despite this emergency, France and other European countries have prevented the passage of these refugees and immigrants from Italy, leaving to the latter the management of the crisis.

"We wish to raise our voice so that this Europe will find its soul again," said Cardinal Bertone, "a soul of great solidarity and generosity with these peoples who face an emergency and great needs."