Marseille receives Pope Francis; He calls to "help" migrants at sea

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Newly arrived in Marseille, Pope Francis called to "help" the migrants who risk their lives at sea, some long-awaited words for the associations that help themin the middle of the debate in Europe about the reception of refugees.

People who, when abandoned on the waves, are at risk of drowning must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity, it is a duty of civilization," cried the Argentine pontiff, with the blue Mediterranean Sea and the sunset in the background.

These words were said by the pope at the foot of the neo-Byzantine basilica of Our Lady of the Guard, crowned by an imposing statue of the Virgin with the baby Jesus in her arms, where he placed white and yellow flowers in tribute to those missing at sea. .

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They are names and surnames, they are faces and stories, they are broken lives and shattered dreams (...) In the face of such a drama, words do not serve, but actions," he stressed shortly before before religious leaders and members of migrant aid associations.

He thanked the latter for their work, especially when sometimes governments in Europe prevent them from setting sail to carry out rescues, something he described as "gestures of hate."

"The recognition of our work is very strong and we hope that [sus palabras] have an impact and finally stop the criminalization of our action," said Fabienne Lassalle, head of the NGO SOS Méditerrannée.

The ceremony was the most anticipated and symbolic moment of their visit. Junior, a young migrant from the Ivory Coast, read a passage about the shipwreck of the Apostle Saint Paul in Malta.

Ainhoa ​​and Angy, two girls of eight and ten years old residing in France and from an Ecuadorian family and also Portuguese for the former, gave two letters to the Pope, who reciprocated them with two rosaries.

I asked him in the letter to pray for children who are poor around the world and who do not have parents," explained Ainhoa, who said he felt "very emotional" to speak with him.

Cruelty towards migrants

From Venezuela to Central America and Mexico, passing through the United States, Africa and the Middle East, migrants are a priority for Francis, who often expresses pain for the tragedies they suffer.

His visit also comes days after thousands of migrants arrived on the island of Lampedusaforcing the European Union (EU) to adopt a plan to help Italy manage this migratory route from North Africa.

Asked about this on the papal plane, Francis, whose first trip as pontiff in 2013 was to Lampedusa and also visited migrant centers in Greece, lamented the "cruelty" and "lack of humanity" experienced in the Mediterranean.

More than 28 thousand migrants have disappeared in its waters since 2014 when wanting to reach Europe from Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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Boubacar (pseudonym), who arrived in Marseille ten days ago, remembers the difficulties he had to go through before landing in Lampedusa:

"We spent 24 hours at sea without eating, without drinking, without relieving ourselves," he said.

Fanaticism of indifference

Although in poor health, the 86-year-old Jesuit, who travels in a wheelchair, undertook his fifth trip of 2023 outside Italy and the Vatican, after visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Hungary, Portugal and Mongolia.

In a Europe where the reception divides, the extreme right and The conservative right, who warn of a supposed migratory "invasion", criticize that the pontiff speaks so much about migrants.

Although during his flight to Marseille he confessed that he did not know if he would have the "bravery" to say everything he wanted to say, he finally attacked the "disgusting contraband" and "the fanaticism of indifference", and called for "overcoming the paralysis of fear " to "take care of the weakest."

His 44th apostolic trip abroad and the first by a pope to Marseille since 1533 arouses great interest despite the decline of Catholicism in France, a secular country since 1905 and where accusations of sexual abuse in the Church accelerated the crisis.

But Francis warned that his trip is not an official visit to France, but rather seeks to close a meeting between bishops and young people from the Mediterranean, with inequalities, interreligious dialogue or climate change on the agenda.

Thousands of faithful are expected in the streets of this cosmopolitan city, where a wide range of communities and religions live, especially on Saturday, when a mass is planned for almost 60,000 people at the Velodrome stadium.

Jorge Bergoglio will first tour the large Prado avenue in his "popemobile" so that the crowd can greet him, before the ceremony in the stadium which will be attended by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, whose presence has been criticized.

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With information from AFP and Reuters.


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