Marseille (Agenzia Fides) - Faced with the multitudes of migrants trying to reach Europe, ports are closed and "people's fears" are fueled, with talk of an "invasion" and an "emergency". But "those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they look for welcome". And thphenomenon of migration is not "so much a short-term urgency, always good for fueling alarmist propaganda,
but a reality of our times", a process "that must be governed with wise foresight". From Marseille, which he described as the "Capital of the integration of peoples", Pope Francis returned to look with lucid realism nourished by faith at the tragedies and emergencies linked to the exodus of migrants whose epicenter is the Mediterranean Sea, that Mare Nostrum with "its shores that, on the one hand, exude affluence, consumerism and waste, while on the other there is poverty and instability". This is what he did today, Saturday September 23, during his final session at the «Rencontres Méditerranéennes, the culmination of his two-day visit to the French port city.
In the hall of the Palais du Pharo, in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, and in front of the audience of participants in the "Rencontres" days (including Bishops, mayors and political leaders from countries bordering the Mediterranean), the Pontiff read a long speech, interrupted several times by the applause of those present and structured around "three realities that characterize Marseille: the sea, the port and the lighthouse".
The French city, which "welcomes the riches of the sea and gives a homeland to those who no longer have one", with its great multi-ethnic and multicultural tradition - the Pope underlined "tells us that despite difficulties, coexistence is possible and is a source of joy". However, even in Marseille, human coexistence is polluted and wounded "by precariousness". And where there is lack of work together with material, educational, cultural and religious poverty, the path is opened up for gangs and illicit trafficking". The Bishop of Rome rejected the popular belief that the Mediterranean history is an intertwining of conflicts between different civilizations, religions and visions. Without denying the violence and misery of history, the Pontiff states that "the exchanges that have taken place between peoples have made the Mediterranean the cradle of civilization, a sea overflowing with treasures". Quoting the great mayor of Florence Giorgio La Pira, the Pontiff recalled the "historical and so to speak permanent vocation that Providence assigned in the past, assigns in the present and, in a certain sense, will assign in the future to the peoples and nations who live on the shores of this mysterious enlarged Lake of Tiberias that is the Mediterranean".
The Mare Nostrum - recognized Pope Francis - "represents a hotspot where changes are felt more quickly". It is a "mirror of the world" and bears within itself a global vocation to fraternity".
And now that conflicts, dirty trafficking, pollution and migratory tragedies are transforming it from "Mare Nostrum" into "Mare Mortuum". Here also the Mediterranean "mirrors the world, with the South turning to the North, with many developing countries, plagued by instability, regimes, wars and desertification, looking to those that are well-off, in a globalized world in which we are all connected, but one in which the disparities have never been so wide".
If it wants to rediscover its plural vocation and return to being a "laboratory of peace", the Mediterranean – suggested the Pope - must start again precisely from those who can be identified with the poor of the Gospel. Those whom Christ himself preferred and to whom he gave hope and "proclaimed them blessed".
We need to "start again, from the often silent cry of the least among us, not from the more fortunate ones who have no need of help yet still raise their voices". The last - recalled the Pontiff - are "the young people who are left to fend for themselves", people crushed by enslaving jobs, the elderly who are abandoned and victims of euthanasia policies, "unborn children who are rejected in the name of a false right to progress". The historical phenomenon of migratory flows crossing the Mediterranean - the Pope recalled - cannot be faced with closed ports and rejections. What is necessary is "a European responsibility that is able to address the objective difficulties". We need to be able to distinguish between true integration, "tiring but farsighted": and an "assimilation that does not take into account differences and remains rigidly fixed in its own paradigms", increasing distances and increasing distances and provoking ghettoization, "which in turn sparks hostility and forms of intolerance".
And yet this situation has not only arisen in recent years, and he is not the first Pope "to find it urgent and worrying". The Church has been speaking about it urgently for more than fifty years,” said Pope Francis. In this context, the encyclical “Populorum progressio” by Paul VI is expressly mentioned. ("The peoples who suffer from hunger urgently and fervently ask the peoples who live in prosperity for help") and the Apostolic Constitution "Exsul Familia de spirituali emigrantium cura", which Pius XII. published in August 1952.
"As Christians", continued the Pontiff, "we cannot accept that the paths of encounter should be closed". And also the great tradition of French Catholicism - continued Pope Francis citing Saint Charles de Foucauld, the martyrs of Algeria, Blaise Pascal and Georges Bernanos, Saint John Cassian and Caesar of Arles - attested that only charity animates and makes the apostolic works of the Church fruitful. "Let the Gospel of charity - insisted the Bishop of Rome - "be the magna charta of pastoral work. We are not called to grieve over times past, or to redefine the Church’s role in society; we are called to bear witness, not to embroider the Gospel with words, but to give it flesh; not to worry about our visibility but to spend ourselves in utter gratuity, believing that “the measure of Jesus is love without measure".
In the last part of his speech, Pope Francis also suggested ideas and criteria for seeking together solutions to the problems and emergencies surrounding the Mediterranean. The Pontiff suggested evaluating "the opportunity of a Conference of Mediterranean Bishops, which would allow further possibilities for exchange and give greater ecclesial representativeness to the region". He then called for valuing and bringing to fruition the energies of the younger generations, recalling that "starting with children, by “mixing” with others, they can surmount barriers, overcome preconceptions, and develop their own identity in a context of mutual enrichment". Pope Francis also mentioned the possibility of developing a «Mediterranean theology», which "is not a laboratory theology", to "reflect on the mystery of God, which no one can claim to possess or master, and which indeed should be removed from any violent and instrumental use, in the awareness that the confession of his grandeur demands of us the humility of seekers". GV) Agenzia Fides, 23/9/2023)