Pope calls for greater tolerance towards migrants
Pope Francis has called on European nations to show greater tolerance towards migrants during a visit to the southern French city of Marseille.
Speaking at a meeting of bishops and young people from Mediterranean countries, the pontiff said “those who risk their lives at sea do not invade”.
French President Emmanuel Macron was among the audience for the address.
It comes as the migration debate has been reignited by mass arrivals on the Italian island of Lampedusa last week.
France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who greeted the Pope upon his arrival in Marseille on Friday, said the country would not welcome any migrants coming from the island.
Some 8,500 people arrived on Lampedusa on 199 boats between Monday and Wednesday last week, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration.
Pope Francis said on Saturday that migration was not an emergency, but rather “a reality of our times, a process that involves three continents around the Mediterranean and that must be governed with wise foresight, including a European response”.
“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,” he said, using Latin terms meaning “our sea” and “sea of death”.
He also called for “an ample number of legal and regular entrances” of migrants, particularly those fleeing war, hunger and poverty, rather than on “preservation of one’s own well-being”.
The Pope’s remarks echoed his message on Friday that it was a duty of humanity to rescue migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
The 86-year-old warned governments against the “fanaticism of indifference” and “paralysis of fear”, saying that “people who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued”.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Marseille to watch him pass through the city.
His official business in Marseille was to take part in the closing session of the Mediterranean Meetings event, which covered migration, as well as economic inequality and climate change.
Francis’s visit marked the first visit by a pope to Marseille, France’s second-largest city, in 500 years.
He attended a private meeting with President Macron and will celebrate Mass in the Velodrome stadium before travelling back to Rome later on Saturday.