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HomeWorld NewsPope Francis Condemns Nationalism, Advocates for European Response to Migration Crisis

Pope Francis Condemns Nationalism, Advocates for European Response to Migration Crisis

Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal during his 27-hour visit to Marseilles, France, denouncing “belligerent nationalisms” and calling for a pan-European approach to tackle the ongoing migration crisis in the Mediterranean. 

The Pope’s visit to this historic French port city, renowned for its rich tapestry of cultures and religions, was marked by his deep concern for the countless lives lost at sea. He emphasized the need to prevent the Mediterranean from turning into “the graveyard of dignity.”

The Pope’s trip was dominated by discussions of immigration issues. On Friday, he passionately stated that migrants risking their lives at sea “must be rescued” as it is “a duty of humanity.” He criticized those who obstruct rescue efforts, condemning their actions as “a gesture of hate.” On Saturday morning, during the conclusion of a Church conference on Mediterranean matters, Pope Francis reiterated his stance.

In a poignant address, he expressed, “There is a cry of pain that resonates most of all, and it is turning the Mediterranean, the ‘mare nostrum,’ from the cradle of civilization into the ‘mare mortuum,’ the graveyard of dignity: it is the stifled cry of migrant brothers and sisters,” employing Latin terms that translate to “our sea” and “sea of death.”

The Pope’s commitment to the cause was evident when, during his flight to Marseilles on Friday, he was visibly moved by a photograph of a migrant child. The photo captured the eyes of 18-month-old Prince, who, along with his mother Claudine Nsoe, had made the perilous journey by sea from North Africa to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa. The image served as a poignant reminder of the human cost of migration.

During his visit, Pope Francis presided over a papal Mass on Saturday afternoon, attended by 50,000 people at Marseilles’ Velodrome stadium. Another 100,000 people lined the route leading to the stadium. President Emmanuel Macron, government officials, and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde were among those present. This attendance drew criticism from left-wing politicians who argued it breached the principle of laïcité, which mandates the separation of state and faith. However, Macron defended his participation, citing respect for the Pope as his motivation.

In his address at the Saturday morning conference, Pope Francis implored people to “hear the cries of pain” that emanate from migrants seeking a better life. He voiced concern about the rise of “antiquated and belligerent nationalisms” that threaten the dream of a unified international community, though he refrained from singling out specific countries.

Several European governments, including Italy, Hungary, and Poland, are currently led by leaders who openly oppose immigration. The Pope countered those who label migration as an “invasion,” emphasizing that it is a complex, long-term issue requiring a compassionate response. He urged for an expansion of legal avenues for immigration, with a focus on accommodating those fleeing conflict, hunger, and poverty, rather than prioritizing national self-interest.

According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, approximately 178,500 migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean this year, while tragically, around 2,500 have lost their lives or gone missing. Pope Francis has consistently advocated for the fair distribution of migrants among the 27 EU countries. His unwavering stance on the rights and dignity of migrants has often clashed with conservative politicians who take a more restrictive stance.

The Pope concluded his visit by visiting a center for the needy in Marseilles’ Saint Mauront district, one of France’s most economically disadvantaged areas. The center is run by the order of nuns founded by Saint Mother Teresa, underlining the Pope’s commitment to addressing the plight of the marginalized and underserved.

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