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Pope Francis with immigrants at the port in Lampedusa, Italy, in 2013 (CNS/pool via Reuters)

Pope Francis’ trip to the French port city of Marseille this week is another stop on a decade-long Mediterranean pilgrimage, which began with his maiden voyage as Pope to the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013. Source: CNS.

For a Pope who prefers going to the peripheries, this sea is one of them. He has called it the “biggest cemetery in Europe” as it has become a final and forgotten resting place for thousands of migrants who have died crossing its waters.

“There is a problem that worries me, which is the problem of the Mediterranean,” he told reporters on August 7 on his return flight from Lisbon, Portugal. “The exploitation of migrants is criminal” as is their detention in “the lagers of North Africa.”

“I am going to Marseille for this,” he said, highlighting a week-long gathering there. “The bishops of the Mediterranean are meeting, with some politicians, too, in order to reflect seriously on this tragedy facing migrants.”

Pope Francis will travel to Marseille on Friday and address the meeting’s final session on Saturday.

This year’s “Mediterranean Meetings,” which began in Bari, Italy, in 2020, will bring together about 70 bishops and 60 young people of all faiths from 30 countries surrounding the Mediterranean to dialogue together, Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseille told reporters last week.

They will discuss social-economic issues, ecology, immigration and civil or political conflicts affecting them directly and the region at large, he said during a press briefing in Rome.

The Church has a role in bringing all sides together to focus on concrete ways to promote the common good, to see and respect the dignity of all human beings and to recognise everyone is part of one human family, he said. Many of the young people sitting down together will be coming from countries historically at odds with each other: like Israel and Palestine, Greece and Turkey, Algeria and Morocco, he added.


Mediterranean mosaics: Pope in Marseille will show beauty of diversity (By Carol Glatz, CNS)