Pope Francis, who has made the plight of migrants a recurring theme of his papacy, has emotionally renewed his condemnation of what he called a “fanaticism of indifference” over drownings in the Mediterranean and of Europe’s “antiquated and belligerent nationalisms want to make the dream of the community of nations fade.”
In Marseille over the weekend he spoke of the hostility to the 8,000-plus who landed in Lampedusa last week as showing “a terrible lack of humanity.” Those who risked drowning at sea “must be rescued”, he said, calling it a “duty of humanity, a duty of civilisation”. The Mediterranean, Pope Francis said on the first papal visit to the city in 500 years, is being transformed from “the cradle of civilisation” into a “graveyard of dignity.”
“Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they look for welcome,” the Pope said, calling migration “not an emergency” but “a reality of our times” that European governments needed to handle with greater cooperation.
He has in the past backed calls for a sharing of the burden of settling refugees between the 27 member states and urged the EU to create “an ample number of legal and regular entrances” for migrants, particularly those fleeing war, hunger and poverty.
Over 2,300 migrants trying to cross the sea from north and sub-Saharan Africa to reach Europe have been recorded as dead or missing so far this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration,which estimates that 28,000 have died making the crossing in the last decade. Although Francis did not name the “nationalisms” that he berated, his target was clear – the far right parties in Italy, France, Greece, Hungary and elsewhere that have embedded a virulent anti-migrant agenda into the body and discourse of mainstream politics across the EU.
It has got to the point where few politicians across the spectrum dare speak like the Pope of the need for a humane policy of rescue, welcome and open doors. It is a message that needs to be heeded.