Pope Francis urged French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders to open their ports to people fleeing hardship and poverty, insisting on Saturday that the continent is not facing a migration emergency, but a long-term reality that governments must deal with humanely.
For the second year in a row, in the French port city of Marseille, Francis took aim at European countries that have tried to close their doors to migrants, trying to shame them into responding with charity.
May we be moved by the stories of so many of our unfortunate brothers and sisters who have the right to emigrate and not to emigrate and not to be indifferent, Francis told Macron and others at a conference center in Marseille where Catholic bishops from the Mediterranean region are meeting. Faced with the terrible scourge of the exploitation of the human person, the solution is not to refuse a large number of legal and regular entries, but to ensure them according to the possibilities of each individual.
The pope’s visit to the southern French city comes as Italy’s far-right government has responded to a new wave of migrant arrivals by threatening a naval blockade of Tunisia and stepping up deportations. The French government has stepped up patrols on the southern border to prevent migrants from entering Italy.
Macron greeted Francis on a windy promenade overlooking the old port of Marseille and helped him into the Palais du Pharo. With his wife by his side, the French leader listened as a young Italian volunteer working in Greece and the bishop of Tirana, Albania, who had fled to Italy during the Albanian communist regime, talked about the reception they had received abroad.
Macron’s centrist government has taken a tougher line on migration and security issues after being criticized by French conservatives and the far right. In view of the elections to the EU parliament next year, Macron is urging the EU to strengthen its external borders and deport people who are denied entry more efficiently.
Macron and Francis then held a private meeting on the sidelines of the Mediterranean Bishops’ Conference. The Vatican has stressed that Francis is not on an official state visit to France, but in Marseille, in line with his refusal to visit the European centers of global Catholicism before visiting smaller communities where the Church is a minority or has difficulties. Social situations.
Francis’ two-day trip has been planned for months, but it is taking place at a time when mass migration to Europe is making headlines again. Nearly 7,000 migrants landed on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in a single day last week, briefly outnumbering the resident population. .
Francis said that talk of a migration emergency only fuels alarmist propaganda and feeds fear.
Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they seek shelter, live, he said. As for the emergency, the phenomenon of migration is not so much a short-term urgency, which is always good for feeding alarmist propaganda, but a reality of our time, a process that involves three continents around the Mediterranean and which must be governed wisely. a European response capable of overcoming objective difficulties.
The first Latin American pope in history has made the plight of migrants a priority of his 10-year pontificate, traveling to Lampedusa on his first trip as Pope to honor drowned migrants. In the following years, he has celebrated trade fairs at the US-Mexico border, met with Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and, most spectacularly, brought 12 Syrian Muslims home on his plane after visiting a refugee camp on Lesbos in Greece.