In a Europe tempted by withdrawal, Pope Francis once again hammered home his message of help and welcome, on the first day of his visit to Marseille. Arriving this Friday afternoon in the Phocaean city, he gathered with representatives of other Christian confessions and other religions, Muslims and Jews in particular, in front of the memorial to sailors and migrants missing at sea, on an esplanade of the basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde.
"We can no longer witness the tragedies of shipwrecks caused by odious trafficking and the fanaticism of indifference," said the pontiff, who regularly denounces the fate of migrants, since his election ten years ago. "People who are at risk of drowning, when left on the waves, must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity, it is a duty of civilization. »
"Believers, we must (...) be exemplary in mutual and fraternal welcome," Francis pleaded, denouncing once again the "immense cemetery" that the Mediterranean has become, where "human dignity is buried." "In the face of such a tragedy, words are useless, but deeds," the pope insisted, castigating "the paralysis of fear" and thanking NGOs that rescue migrants at sea, while denouncing those who prevent them from working.
"He's telling the state to do even more"
The pope's trip to Marseille comes just as a new wave of arrivals on the Italian island of Lampedusa has prompted the European Union to adopt a contingency plan to help Rome manage migration flows from North Africa. But the France "will not welcome migrants" from Lampedusa, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Tuesday.
The Mediterranean is the world's most dangerous migration route, with more than 28,000 missing at sea since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Among the faithful who came to see the pope at the "Good Mother", Veronique Dembele, 47, arrived in France five years ago from Mali with her son Michel, 15 years old today. "It's an immense joy and an honour. It's unbelievable but true," said the woman, who has a residence permit. "The Pope comes to support migrants, but also to thank the state for what it does for migrants. And he tells the state to do even more. »
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The pope's visit sparked widespread enthusiasm, despite the decline of Catholicism in France, accelerated by the sexual violence crisis in the Church. Some 60,000 people are expected Saturday for the Mass that the pope is to celebrate at the Velodrome stadium, another symbol of the city, preceded by a stroll in popemobile along the Prado, the city's main avenue now paved in the yellow and white colors of the Vatican, to which 100,000 other people are expected.