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Pope Francis: Mediterranean must not be "place of conflict"

Pope Francis prays during the weekly general audience at St Peter's square in The Vatican. 27/09/2023   -  
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The Pope said on Wednesday that the Mediterranean Sea must not become a "place of conflict".

Speaking at his weekly address to the faithful in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, he said "It is not tolerable that it becomes a tomb, neither should it be a place of conflict."

"The Mediterranean is the complete opposite of the clash between civilisations, war, human trafficking. The Mediterranean is a means of communication between Africa, Asia and Europe; between the north and the south, the east and the west, persons and cultures, peoples and tongues, philosophies and religions."

Western society in crisis

Francis' address came following his visit to the French port city of Marseille last weekend for a meeting to discuss the Mediterranean, where he decried what he called a "fanaticism of indifference" towards migrants.

He said, on Wednesday, the tens of thousands of migrants crossing the sea to reach Europe must be welcomed and integrated because they can help Western societies. 

"Our societies, sickened by consumerism and by empty escapism need to open themselves, their souls and spirits need to be oxygenised,” he said, adding, “Then they will be able to read the [migrant] crisis as an opportunity and deal with it positively. “

Anti-migrant sentiment in Europe

Migrant crossings in the Mediterranean have almost doubled since 2022, according to figures released in September by EU coast and border guard agency Frontex. 

Between January and August 2023, the number of migrants arriving in Italy via the Mediterranean from North Africa came to almost 114,300. 

The rise in crossings comes amidst an increase in anti-migrant sentiment in several European countries. 

During his address on Wednesday, Pope Francis gave a short message to visiting Polish pilgrims urging them to continue to help Ukrainian refugees.

Poland will hold national elections on October 15, with political parties on the right increasingly taking anti-migrant positions and showing less support for Ukraine.

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