On Saturday, Pope Francis harshly criticized “hostile nationalisms” in Europe against immigrants, reminding that these are “seekers of hospitality, not invaders” of Europe. At the conclusion of the Church’s conference on Mediterranean issues in Marseille, he called for allowing “a large number of legal and regular entry operations”, to prevent the Mediterranean from becoming a “cemetery of dignity.” The Pope presided over a huge mass in front of 50,000 people at the Velodrome Stadium, concluding a two-day visit, the most prominent of which was defending immigrants.
via Pope Francis On Saturday, he expressed his criticism of “hostile nationalisms” against migrants, calling for a European response to migration to prevent the Mediterranean Sea, where thousands drowned, from becoming a “cemetery of dignity.”
At the conclusion of the Church’s conference on Mediterranean issues in Marseille, the Pope reminded that migrants are “seekers of hospitality, not invaders” of Europe. He stressed that migration is “a constant reality of our time, a phenomenon that includes three continents around the Mediterranean, and must be dealt with with wisdom and foresight, with a European responsibility capable of confronting realistic difficulties.”
He also pointed out the danger that threatens the lives of migrants if they are not taken to safety. The Supreme Pontiff said: “There is a cry of pain louder than anything else that turns our sea into a sea of the dead, and turns the Mediterranean from the cradle of civilization into the grave of dignity.” The Pope was repeatedly interrupted during his speech by warm applause.
Pope Francis stressed on Friday that it is the duty of European governments to rescue asylum seekers who are fleeing by sea to escape conflicts, warning of “paralysis of fear,” in reference to the growing hostility towards immigrants within Europe.
The Supreme Pontiff’s plane landed shortly after 16:00 (14:00 GMT) at Marignan Airport, where he was received by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne, before heading to the “Notre Dame de la Garde” Cathedral on the heights of the second largest city in France.
After participating in a prayer with the priests of the cathedral, the Pope met with Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious officials in front of the monument to sailors and migrants lost at sea, renewing his call to receive refugees.
The Pope, who since his election has long denounced leaving migrants to their fate, said, “We cannot remain witnesses to the tragedies of drowning due to abhorrent trafficking operations and the fanaticism of indifference.”
The Pope continued, “We must rescue people who are in danger of drowning when left on the waves. It is a human duty, it is a duty of civilization!”
He added, “We believers must be an example of mutual and fraternal reception,” denouncing once again the transformation of the Mediterranean Sea into a “tremendous cemetery” in which “human dignity” was buried.
The Pope thanked relief organizations that help migrants facing danger at sea, and condemned efforts being made to prevent their work, considering them “hate.”
“Trampling” on religious neutrality
However, it is unlikely that the Pope’s positions on migrants will please the host country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and his Interior Minister, Gerald Dramanan, who are present and seeking to take strict measures to control the flow of asylum seekers.
The Pope’s statements did not include any support for the French government’s policies seeking to tighten restrictions related to irregular migration. A French presidential official, who requested to remain anonymous, told Agence France-Presse that Macron and the Pope discussed the immigration file in bilateral talks earlier, and pointed out that “France has nothing to be ashamed of, it is a country of welcome and integration.”
In a country governed since 1905 by the principle of secularism, the leftist opposition accused Macron of “trampling” on the state’s religious neutrality by announcing his participation in the Great Mass on Saturday.
The French right received the Pope’s visit in a mixed manner, including his Catholic and conservative representatives, who criticized his political interventions and accused him of doing too much towards immigrants.
But the Supreme Pontiff did not make any effort on Saturday to calm the critics, and appeared to criticize projects that Macron intends to implement, especially legalizing euthanasia and including the right to abortion in the constitution.
In this regard, the Pope said: “Who listens to the groans of lonely elderly people who, instead of being appreciated, stand waiting for the false dignity of a merciful death, in a reality saltier than sea water?”
The French presidential official said that Macron discussed the “methodology” and “timetable” for a draft law related to euthanasia that the government seeks to present to Parliament in the coming weeks.
The Pope also spoke of “unborn children, rejected in the name of the false right to progress which, on the contrary, is a decline in the needs of the individual.”
The impact of the Pope’s messages may not be strong in France given the decline in Catholicism in the country, where less than a third of the population is Catholic, and very few of them attend Mass on a regular basis. But the country’s religious legacy still has its weight, as Macron boasted this week of the work being carried out to restore Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris during a tour with King Charles III.
In the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, he chaired Pope Francis On Saturday, a huge mass was held in front of about 50,000 people, according to the authorities, at the Velodrome football stadium in Marseille, amid tight security measures.
The Pope entered the stadium riding the papal carriage after touring the streets of the city, where residents lined up to greet him and receive his blessing, waving the flags of the Vatican and France. Among the crowds were priests, monks and volunteers assigned to serve the Mass.
The 86-year-old Pope had previously announced that he would not come to France on a state visit, but rather to Marseille, a city with a cosmopolitan character in which a wide range of sects and religions coexist, in order to denounce the tragedy of sinking migrant ships and defend their cause.
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