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Pope Francis Urges Humanity to Choose Fraternity Over Indifference in Migrant Crisis
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While speaking in Marseille, France, Pope Francis made a compelling plea for humanity to confront a pivotal choice in the face of the ongoing migrant crisis. Speaking at a memorial dedicated to the memory of those lost at sea, the Pope emphasized the urgent need to prioritize fraternity over indifference.
Photo credit: Jametlene Reskp
On September 22nd, 2023, Pope Francis stood before a solemn audience, encompassed by the symbolism of the sea, which he described as both a source of life and a haunting reminder of the tragic shipwrecks that have claimed countless lives. In his address to local religious leaders during the first day of his two-day visit to Marseille, he declared, "We can no longer watch the drama of shipwrecks, caused by the cruel trafficking and the fanaticism of indifference. People who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity; it is a duty of civilization."
The Pope articulated a stark choice facing humanity: fraternity, which fosters goodness and strengthens the human community, or indifference, which stains the Mediterranean with blood. He underscored the gravity of the situation, stating, "We find ourselves at a crossroads of civilization."
The memorial event served as a poignant reminder of the lives lost at sea. Pope Francis urged compassion, emphasizing that these individuals were not mere statistics or news stories; they were real people with names, surnames, faces, stories, dreams, and aspirations. He implored, "Let us not get used to considering shipwrecks as news stories, and deaths at sea as numbers: No, they are names and surnames, they are faces and stories, they are broken lives and shattered dreams."
Pope Francis's visit to Marseille was part of the Mediterranean Encounter, known as the "Rencontres Mediterraneennes," where he engaged with approximately 120 young people representing various creeds, accompanied by bishops from 30 countries. This visit held significant relevance as it coincided with the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, observed on September 24th.
The Pope's poignant message came amid the backdrop of a devastating reality. The first quarter of 2023 had witnessed the highest number of fatalities in the Central Mediterranean since 2017, with at least 441 recorded deathsďż˝"an alarming figure that experts believe underrepresents the true toll. The United Nations' International Organization for Migration (IOM) termed this ongoing crisis as "intolerable." Shockingly, over 20,000 lives have been lost on the Central Mediterranean migration routes since 2014.
Pope Francis has been a steadfast advocate for migrants and refugees. Earlier in the year, he marked the 10th anniversary of his first papal trip to Lampedusa, an island situated between Sicily and Tunisia, which has been a focal point of many migrant tragedies. The Pope expressed his deep concern for the situation, decrying the "cruelty and lack of humanity" witnessed on Lampedusa, where hundreds of migrants have arrived almost daily in recent weeks. The island, with a population of approximately 6,400 people and an area smaller than eight square miles, has declared a state of emergency as it grapples with the overwhelming influx of migrants.
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During a personal conversation with journalists aboard his plane from Rome, Pope Francis expressed his outrage at the conditions faced by migrants. He lamented the fate of those who, after enduring Libyan concentration camps, were cast adrift in the sea.
At the memorial to those lost at sea, Pope Francis called for a moment of silence, urging humanity to show compassion and solidarity. He said, "We need to show some humanity: silence, weeping, compassion, and prayer. I now invite you to spend a moment of silence in memory of these brothers and sisters of ours: Let us be moved by their tragedies." He concluded with a message of hope, stating, "God will bless us if on land and at sea we know how to take care of the weakest, if we can overcome the paralysis of fear and the disinterest that, with velvet gloves, condemns others to death."
The memorial itself featured a Camargue cross, originating from the Camargue region of France, symbolizing the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Faith is represented by three tridents, hope by an anchor, and charity by a heartďż˝"a powerful reminder of the values that should guide humanity's response to the ongoing migrant crisis.
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