Pope Francis says "Brothers and sisters, let's face the problems together, let's not ruin hope, let's compose a mosaic of peace together!" at Interreligious Meeting in Marseille

in MARSEILLE - for the conclusion of the “Rencontres Méditerranéennes”
[22 - 23 SEPTEMBER 2023]
Marseille on Friday, September 22, 2023
Dear brothers and sisters,
thanks for being here. In front of us is the sea, a source of life, but this place evokes the tragedy of shipwrecks, which cause death. We are gathered in memory of those who did not make it, who were not saved. Let's not get used to considering shipwrecks as news stories and deaths at sea as figures: no, they are names and surnames, they are faces and stories, they are broken lives and broken dreams. I think of many brothers and sisters drowned in fear, together with the hopes they carried in their hearts. In the face of such a drama, words are not needed, but actions. Even before that, however, humanity is needed, silence, crying, compassion and prayer are needed. I invite you now to a moment of silence in memory of these brothers and sisters of ours: let us be touched by their tragedies. [moment of silence]

Too many people, fleeing from conflicts, poverty and environmental disasters, find the definitive rejection in their search for a better future among the waves of the Mediterranean. And so this splendid sea has become a huge cemetery, where many brothers and sisters are deprived even of the right to have a tomb, and only human dignity is buried. In the book-testimony "Fratellino", the protagonist, at the end of the troubled journey that takes him from the Republic of Guinea to Europe, states: «When you sit above the sea you are at a crossroads. On one side life, on the other death. There are no other exits there" (A. Arzallus Antia – I. Balde, Fratellino, Milan 2021, 107). Friends, there is also a crossroads before us: on the one hand, brotherhood, which fertilizes the human community with good; on the other, indifference, which bloodies the Mediterranean. We find ourselves at a crossroads of civilization. Either the culture of humanity and brotherhood, or the culture of indifference: let everyone make do as they can.
We cannot resign ourselves to seeing human beings treated as bargaining chips, imprisoned and tortured in an atrocious way - we know, many times, when we send them away, they are destined to be tortured and imprisoned -; we can no longer witness the tragedies of shipwrecks, due to hateful trafficking and the fanaticism of indifference. Indifference becomes fanatical. People who risk drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity, it is a duty of civilization!
Heaven will bless us, if on land and at sea we know how to take care of the weakest, if we know how to overcome the paralysis of fear and the disinterest that condemns us to death with velvet gloves. In this, we representatives of different religions are called to be an example. God, in fact, blessed his father Abraham. He was called to leave his homeland and "he left without knowing where he was going" (Heb 11:8). Guest and pilgrim in a foreign land, he welcomed the travelers who passed near his tent (see Gen 18): "exiled from his homeland, homeless, he himself was the home and homeland of all" (St. Peter Chrysologos, Discourses, 121). And «as a reward for his hospitality, he obtained descendants» (S. Ambrogio of Milan, De officiis, II, 21). At the roots of the three Mediterranean monotheisms there is therefore hospitality, love for strangers in the name of God. And this is vital if, like our father Abraham, we dream of a prosperous future. Let us not forget the refrain of the Bible: "the orphan, the widow and the migrant, the stranger". Orphan, widow and stranger: these are the ones God commands us to protect.
We believers, therefore, must be exemplary in mutual and fraternal welcome. Relations between religious groups are often not easy, with the worm of extremism and the ideological plague of fundamentalism corroding the real life of communities. But in this regard, I would like to echo what a man of God who lived not far from here wrote: «Let no one keep in his heart feelings of hatred for his neighbor, but love, because whoever hates even a single man will not be able to remain calm in front of to God. God does not listen to his prayer as long as he holds anger in his heart" (St. Caesarius of Arles, Discourses, XIV, 2).
Today even Marseille, characterized by a varied religious pluralism, has a crossroads ahead of it: meeting or clash. And I thank all of you who are on the path to meeting: thank you for your solidarity and concrete commitment to human promotion and integration. Marseille is a model of integration. It is nice that here, together with various organizations that work with migrants, there is Marseille-Espérance, an interreligious dialogue body that promotes brotherhood and peaceful coexistence. We look at the pioneers and witnesses of the dialogue, such as Jules Isaac, who lived nearby, and was recently remembered on the 60th anniversary of his death. You are the Marseille of the future. Move forward without being discouraged, so that this city may be a mosaic of hope for France, for Europe and for the world.
As a hope, I would finally like to quote some words that David Sassoli spoke in Bari, on the occasion of a previous meeting on the Mediterranean: «In Baghdad, in the House of Wisdom of Caliph Al Ma'mun, Jews, Christians and Muslims met to read the sacred books and Greek philosophers. Today we all feel, believers and lay people, the need to rebuild that house to continue together to fight idols, break down walls, build bridges, give substance to a new humanism. Looking deeply at our time and loving it even more when it is difficult to love, I believe that is the seed sown in these days so attentive to our destiny. Stop being afraid of the problems that the Mediterranean presents us with! [...] For the European Union and for all of us, our survival is at stake" (Speech on the occasion of the "Mediterranean frontier of peace" meeting of reflection and spirituality, 22 February 2020).
Brothers and sisters, let's face the problems together, let's not ruin hope, let's compose a mosaic of peace together!
I am pleased to see so many of you here who go to sea to save, save migrants. And many times they stop you from going, because - they say - the ship is missing something, this is missing, that is missing... They are gestures of hatred against the brother, disguised as "balance". Thanks for everything you do.