The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI is concerned about the situation of migrants after a boat carrying 300 people from North Africa to Italy capsized in rough seas.
Only about 50 people were rescued some 40 miles off the Italian coast, with the remaining unaccounted for and presumed dead.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Thursday that the tragedy "has greatly struck" the pontiff and that Benedict is following the migrant situation with "participation and concern."
The pope was praying for all people "who lose their lives in the terrible journey to flee the poverty, injustice and violence afflicting them."
The search for survivors was continuing with little hope of finding survivors.