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Pope seeks European migration unity, rejects “sea of death”

Pope Francis, during his 27-hour visit to Marseilles, emphasized the need for a pan-European approach to migration and denounced “belligerent nationalisms.” He expressed concern about the Mediterranean becoming a “graveyard of dignity” due to the tragic loss of lives, with thousands drowning in its waters.

The pope reiterated his stance that migrants in danger at sea must be rescued as a humanitarian duty and criticized those who obstruct such rescues as committing “a gesture of hate.” In his address concluding a Church conference on Mediterranean issues, he highlighted the cry of pain from migrant brothers and sisters and referred to the Mediterranean as “mare nostrum” (our sea) and “mare mortuum” (sea of death) in Latin.

During his visit, Pope Francis was deeply moved by a Reuters photograph of an 18-month-old migrant child named Prince, who arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa with his mother Claudine Nsoe from North Africa.

A papal Mass attended by President Emmanuel Macron, government officials, and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde took place in front of 50,000 people at the Velodrome stadium. The pope’s call to hear the cries of pain from migrants seeking a better life was a central theme of his speech during the conference.

Pope Francis criticized the rise of “antiquated and belligerent nationalisms” without naming specific countries and emphasized the importance of compassion in addressing migration challenges. He advocated for expanding legal pathways for immigrants, particularly those fleeing war, hunger, and poverty, rather than prioritizing self-preservation.

According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, approximately 178,500 migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean in the current year, with around 2,500 deaths or disappearances reported.

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