Pope Francis: Mediterranean must not be “place of conflict”

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In his weekly address to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Pope Francis delivered a heartfelt message, emphasizing the importance of the Mediterranean Sea as a symbol of unity rather than conflict. He urged that the Mediterranean must not become a “place of conflict” or a tragic “tomb” for those seeking refuge.

The Pope’s remarks centered on the Mediterranean’s role as a conduit of connection between Africa, Asia, and Europe, bridging divides and fostering cultural exchange. He spoke of it as a unifying force between different regions, cultures, and religions.

Pope Francis also drew attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis involving migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. He asserted that these individuals should be welcomed and integrated into Western societies, emphasizing their potential to contribute positively.

The pontiff highlighted the need for Western societies to overcome the challenges of consumerism and apathy, suggesting that embracing migrants could help revitalize societies and infuse them with renewed spirit and purpose.

Migrant crossings in the Mediterranean have seen a significant increase since 2022, with nearly 114,300 migrants arriving in Italy from North Africa between January and August 2023, according to data from the EU coast and border guard agency Frontex.

However, this surge in migration has been met with rising anti-migrant sentiments in various European countries, complicating the reception and integration of newcomers.

Pope Francis used his address to send a message to visiting Polish pilgrims, urging them to continue their efforts in assisting Ukrainian refugees. The plea comes at a time when political parties in Poland, in the run-up to national elections, have adopted more anti-migrant stances and shown reduced support for Ukraine.

The Pope’s message serves as a poignant reminder of the humanitarian and moral imperatives surrounding the Mediterranean migration crisis, calling for compassion, unity, and a proactive approach to addressing the challenges it presents.