Pope Francis arrived by popemobile to the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Bari, where the saint's remains are kept and venerated by Catholics and Orthodox.
Fifty-eight bishops from different Mediterranean cities were waiting for him.
They told the pope of their five days of conversation on the region's challenges, including the migration crisis, inequality and a lack of religious freedom.
MSGR. PIERBATTISTA PIZZABALLA
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
“For centuries, the Mediterranean has been the center of cultural, commercial and religious exchange of every kind. However, it has unfortunately also been a place of war, conflict and political and religious division. Today, it seems these issues are increasing instead of decreasing. One must only think of the situation in Libya and the Middle East.”
“The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups. Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises.”
The pope also said injustice, war and climate change increase the need for migration. He says this crisis can't be resolved through military means, but by offering equal opportunities.
“Fear is leading to a sense that we need to defend ourselves against what is depicted in demagogic terms as an invasion. The rhetoric of the clash of civilizations merely serves to justify violence and to nurture hatred.”
“I am frightened by speeches of certain leaders of new forms of populism. They remind me of the discourses that planted fear and hatred in the 1930s.”
The pope asked the bishops to help everyone, not just governments, see the value of intercultural dialogue, integration and respect for the dignity of migrants. He said this was the way to build a more just society.
“This is the work the Lord entrusts to you on behalf of this beloved Mediterranean region: to restore relationships that have been broken, to rebuild cities destroyed by violence, to make a garden flourish in what is now a desert, to instill hope in the hopeless, and to encourage those caught up in themselves not to fear their brothers or sisters.”
After the meeting, the pope greeted each of the 58 bishops who participated.
Then he prayed before the relics of St. Nicholas.
Before leaving, he also greeted and thanked some of the people waiting for him at the basilica's entrance.