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In Marseille, one of the gateways to the European continent, Pope Francis participated in the closing of the 'Mediterranean Encounters,' an event to discuss the problems in the maritime area of southern Europe.
There, precisely in the city that the Pope defined as "the smile of the Mediterranean," due to its shape, he delivered a strong message on the ongoing migratory crisis. He called on Europe to guarantee the reception of migrants in a legal and regulated manner.
In the face of the terrible scourge of the exploitation of human beings, the solution is not to reject but to ensure, according to the possibilities of each, an ample number of legal and regular entrances. This would be sustainable with an equitable welcome on the part of the European continent, in the context of cooperation with the countries of origin. Whereas, crying “enough!” means shutting our eyes; attempting to “save ourselves” now will turn into tragedy tomorrow.
Pope Francis expressed his concern for the existing approach to receiving migrants. He stressed that they risk their lives at sea and arrive at port in search of a welcome.
But those who risk their lives at sea are not invading; they seek a welcome. They are seeking life.
Let us commit ourselves to ensure that those who are part of society can become its citizens with full rights. There is also a cry of pain that resonates most of all, and that is turning the 'mare nostrum' into 'mare mortuum,' the Mediterranean from cradle of civilization to grave of dignity.
During his speech, the Pope outlined a roadmap for managing the crisis in Europe. But he also spoke of what the Church can contribute to helping with the migration phenomenon.
Pope Francis proposed to continue developing specific pastoral care for migrants, with the goal that the most affected dioceses can provide spiritual and material assistance to those who arrive at port. He also spoke of the possibility of creating a Conference of Bishops dedicated to the Mediterranean region.
Thinking about the sea, which unites so many different belief communities, I believe we can reflect on more synergistic paths, perhaps also considering the opportunity of a Conference of Mediterranean Bishops.
But the issue of migration was not the only one the Pope addressed. He also asked a series of questions regarding the problems facing the world today. One of them is the neglect of the elderly.
Who listens to the groaning of the lonely elderly who, instead of being valued, are left with the fake-dignified prospect of a gentle death, which in reality is saltier than the waters of the sea?
The Pope has repeated this message on several occasions. But this time, it specifically concerns current events in France, where the government is preparing to pass a law on euthanasia in the coming weeks.
The President of France was present at the event. After the close of the 'Mediterranean Encounters,' he met privately with Pope Francis for about 30 minutes and was later joined by the First Lady.
President Emmanuel Macron presented the Pope with two books to the Mediterranean by French authors related. For his part, Pope Francis gave the president the medal for the 10 year anniversary of his pontificate.