Yesterday, Pope Francis celebrated a massive mass at the end of a short visit to Marseille, on the French Mediterranean coast, from where he called on Europe to “responsibility” towards migrants and denounced the “fanaticism of indifference.”
Aboard his popemobile, the Argentine pontiff was welcomed with applause from the thousands of faithful present – the organization expected almost 60 thousand – and shouts of “Pope Francis”, upon his arrival at the Velodrome Stadium after touring the streets of the city.
“Good morning Marseille, good morning France,” the Pope said to those present, including French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife, Brigitte, and the president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde.
In his message, he highlighted that “the experience of faith generates, above all, a leap in life. It is the opposite of a boring heart, insensitive to everything and everyone, even to the tragic discarding of human life, which today is rejected in so many people who emigrate, in so many unborn children and in so many abandoned elderly people.”
Francis asked attendees to ask themselves “with sincerity” if they consider that “God is working” in their lives. “Do we believe that the Lord, in a hidden and often unpredictable way, acts in history, performs wonders and is also working in our societies marked by worldly secularism and a certain religious indifference?” He questioned.
He stressed that God “frequently visits through human encounters” and when the heart “does not remain indifferent and insensitive to the wounds of the most fragile,” when “something moves within.”
The liturgy, in which prayers were read in several languages, including Spanish, Armenian and Arabic, concluded a two-day trip by the Pope to France’s second city, on the occasion of the closing of the Mediterranean Meetings between young people and bishops of the coastal countries.
Before this forum, the leader of 1.3 billion Catholics asked for “European responsibility” to confront the “migration phenomenon” after denouncing the day before the “fanaticism of indifference” towards migrants. “He who risks his life at sea does not invade, he seeks shelter,” he reiterated.
Some 8,500 migrants arrived days ago on the small Italian island of Lampedusa after crossing the Mediterranean, where more than 28,000 have disappeared since 2014 in their attempt to reach Europe from Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Since his election as Supreme Pontiff in 2013, one of Francis’ priorities has been to warn about the tragedies of migrants, from the Mediterranean to Central America or Venezuela, through Africa, the Middle East, Europe or the United States, and to ask for their reception.
Their new calls occur in an increasingly hostile context for these exiles in Europe. An example of this, France warned, through its Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, that it “will not welcome” any from Lampedusa.
During a half-hour meeting, the French president raised the immigration issue with Francis, to whom he also explained his plans for active aid in dying that he must present “in the coming weeks,” indicated the French presidency. The Pope had recently warned against the “falsely dignified perspective of a sweet death.”
“Hope”. His 44th apostolic trip abroad and the first to Marseille by a pope since 1533 sparked great interest, despite the decline of Catholicism in France, a secular country since 1905 and where accusations of sexual abuse in the Church accelerated the crisis.
As in each of his trips, Francisco had several symbolic moments, such as the tribute to the migrants missing at sea or the breakfast with people in need from various countries such as Albania, Armenia and Colombia in the Saint Mauront neighborhood, one of the poorest in Marseille.
For his commitment to migrants, the NGO SOS Méditerranée gave him one of the life preservers they used to save “hundreds of babies and children” at sea and which served “until a few weeks ago,” the group indicated.
But his visit was also accompanied by controversy in France. The left-wing opposition criticized Macron’s presence at the mass, considering that he “tramples” religious neutrality. “I consider that my place is to attend. I will not go as a Catholic, but as president,” the centrist president defended himself last week, who was the first since Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 1980 to attend a papal mass.
Macron, baptized as a Catholic at the age of 12 and educated by the Jesuits, is a president sensitive to spirituality and currently defines himself as an agnostic.