Pope Francis on Friday lamented that the Mediterranean Sea has turn into a “enormous graveyard” for migrants making an attempt to achieve Europe, on the primary day of his go to to the port metropolis of Marseille, France, the place he’s anticipated to fulfill President Emmanuel Macron.
Francis, attending the closing session of a week-long assembly of bishops, youth activists and representatives of different faiths from throughout the Mediterranean, mentioned the world should reply “with actions, not phrases.” He additionally denounced the “fanaticism of indifference” in the direction of migrants – a recurring theme of his papacy.
“Allow us to not get used to seeing shipwrecks as information tales and deaths at sea as numbers,” the pope mentioned at a memorial to sailors and migrants misplaced at sea, reverse Notre-Dame de la Garde, a basilica with sweeping views over the ocean. the port of Marseille.
“They’re names and surnames, they’re faces and tales, they’re damaged lives and shattered goals,” he added.
Francis has lengthy championed the plight of migrants making an attempt to achieve Europe from North and Sub-Saharan Africa, and he was extensively anticipated to make this a serious situation throughout his journey to Marseille, which isn’t an official state go to to France.
But, simply after a state go to by King Charles III and Queen Camilla of Nice Britain, who visited Bordeaux on Friday, Macron took the chance to fulfill the Pope. They are going to meet on Saturday earlier than attending an enormous mass at Marseille’s soccer stadium.
“Politicians like to be seen with the pope,” mentioned Isabelle de Gaulmyn, prime editor at La Croix, France’s important Catholic newspaper, — particularly Mr. Macron, a political disruptor who has lengthy been fascinated by Francis’ willingness to shake issues up. within the church.
A gathering with the Pope, an ethical authority on migration, “may also assist him lean a little bit to the left,” Ms. de Gaulmin mentioned of Mr. Macron, a centrist who typically leans to the fitting, together with in the case of situation of migration.
Immigration has turn into a political flashpoint for European governments, particularly these dealing with sturdy far-right events.
Gérald Darmanin, Macron’s inside minister, mentioned this week that France would assist handle the circulation of migrants arriving in Lampedusa, however that it might not settle for migrants. He mentioned France would welcome asylum seekers in the event that they meet the fitting standards, however burdened that many don’t.
“We should combat unlawful immigration in Europe, France and Italy, and we aren’t going to cease a circulation – which impacts our capacity to combine – by taking in additional individuals,” Mr Darmanin informed TF1 Tv.
Greater than 28,000 migrants making an attempt to cross the Mediterranean to achieve Europe have been recorded lifeless or lacking since 2014, in line with the Worldwide Group for Migration, a United Nations company. Almost 180,000 individuals have arrived by sea up to now in 2023, in line with the United Nations refugee company.
“Too many individuals fleeing battle, poverty and environmental disasters in the hunt for a greater future discover the final word rejection within the waves of the Mediterranean,” Francis mentioned on Friday.
“And so this stunning sea has turn into an enormous cemetery,” he added, as he held a minute’s silence with Catholic officers, metropolis representatives and an interfaith group of non secular leaders.
In Marseille, Francis thanked support teams that rescued shipwrecked sailors, calling the federal government’s efforts to hinder their missions “gestures of hatred.”
François Thomas, the president of SOS Méditerranée, one of many support teams current on the ceremony, mentioned the variety of deaths has elevated in current months, partly as a result of extra migrants are attempting to cross throughout the gentle summer season climate, and partly due to exterior elements corresponding to the continuing chaos in Libya, a authorities crackdown in Tunisia and an Italian legislation limiting the time rescue ships can spend at sea.
Francis’ go to is essential, Thomas mentioned, as a result of he is without doubt one of the few world leaders who has unequivocally defended migrants.
“He has at all times had a message of solidarity and brotherhood on this situation and on the tragedy within the Mediterranean,” he mentioned. “We will need to have the braveness to say that we can not let individuals drown on Europe’s doorstep.”
Marseille is a port metropolis formed by immigration from European nations corresponding to Armenia, Italy and Spain, in addition to from France’s former African colonies.
Stricken by excessive poverty, strained social providers and lethal violence linked to drug trafficking, additionally it is considered one of France’s most cosmopolitan cities, a mixture of ethnic and spiritual communities which are predominantly working class.
On Saturday, Francis and Mr Macron will attend the closing session of the assembly of bishops referred to as the Mediterranean Conferences earlier than holding one-on-one talks.
They are going to then head to the Vélodrome, Marseille’s well-known soccer stadium, the place tens of hundreds of individuals will have fun mass, with one other 100,000 anticipated outdoors.
It’s not uncommon for French leaders to attend non secular ceremonies corresponding to funerals, however Macron would be the first French president to attend a papal mass since 1980.
France has a robust custom of secularism, and Macron’s anticipated presence on the ceremony is ruffling some feathers – particularly after a controversial resolution to ban the lengthy robes worn by some Muslim college students in faculties.
“No, Mr. President, it isn’t your home to go to the Pope’s Mass,” mentioned Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leftist chief, said on X, the social media platform previously referred to as Twitter. “The secular state neither acknowledges nor subsidizes any faith.”
Mr Macron’s workplace identified that as president he had attended different non secular occasions, corresponding to an iftar dinner hosted by Muslim organisations. And he has insisted he is not going to attend the mass.
“I am not going as a Catholic; I’m going as president of the French Republic,” Macron mentioned final week, including: “I’m going out of courtesy and respect.”
Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting from Rome.