Dear brothers and sisters,
Thank you for being here. The sea lies before us; it is a source of life, but also a place which evokes the tragedy of shipwrecks causing death. We are gathered in memory of those who did not survive, who were not saved. Let us not get used to considering shipwrecks as news items and deaths at sea as numbers: no, they are first and last names, they are faces and stories, they are shattered lives and shattered dreams. I think of so many brothers and sisters drowned in fear, with the hopes they carried in their hearts. In the face of such a tragedy, words are useless, but actions. But before that, we need humanity, we need silence, tears, compassion and prayer. I now invite you to a moment of silence in memory of our brothers and sisters: let us allow ourselves to be touched by their tragedies. (Moment of silence).
Too many people, fleeing conflicts, poverty and environmental disasters, find in the waves of the Mediterranean the definitive rejection of their quest for a better future. This is how this magnificent sea has become an immense cemetery where many brothers and sisters are even deprived of the right to a grave, and where only human dignity is buried. In the testimonial book Fratellinothe protagonist, at the end of the eventful journey that takes him from the Republic of Guinea to Europe, writes: “When you sit on the sea, you are at a crossroads. On one side, there is life , on the other, death. There is no other way out” (A. Arzallus Antia – I. Balde, Fratellino, Milan 2021, 107). Dear friends, we are also at a crossroads: on the one hand fraternity, which enriches the human community with goodness; on the other, indifference, which is bloodying the Mediterranean. We are at one crossroads of civilizations. Either the culture of humanity and fraternity, or the culture of indifference: let everyone manage as best they can.
We cannot resign ourselves to seeing human beings treated as bargaining chips, imprisoned and tortured in atrocious ways – we know that often when we send them back they are destined to be tortured and imprisoned – we cannot no longer witness the tragedies of shipwrecks caused by heinous trafficking and the fanaticism of indifference. Indifference becomes fanatical. People who are at risk of drowning when abandoned in the waves must be rescued. It is a duty of humanity, it is a duty of civilization!
Heaven will bless us if, on land as on sea, we know how to take care of the weakest, if we know how to overcome the paralysis of fear and the disinterest which condemns us to death, with velvet gloves. And in this, as representatives of the various religions, we must be exemplary. God, in fact, blessed Abraham who was called to leave his land of origin and “he left without knowing where he was going” (Hey 11, 8). Host and pilgrim in a foreign land, he welcomed travelers who passed in front of his tent (cf. Gn 18): “Exiled from his homeland, homeless, he himself was the home and fatherland of all” (St Peter Chrysologus, Speech, 121). And “as a price for his hospitality, he received the reward of posterity” (S. Ambrose of Milan, Homeworks, II, 21). At the roots of the three Mediterranean monotheisms therefore lies hospitality, love of the stranger 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”. The orphan, the widow and the stranger: these are those whom God commands us to protect.
Believers, we must therefore be exemplary in mutual and fraternal welcome. Often relations between religious groups are not easy, because of the virus of extremism and the ideological scourge of fundamentalism which eat away at the real life of communities. But I would like, in this regard, 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 of love, because he who hates even just one man will not be able to stand still before God. God does not hear his prayer as long as he keeps anger in his heart” (S. Caesarius of Arles, Speech, XIV, 2).
Today, Marseille, characterized by a rich and diverse religious pluralism, also finds itself at a crossroads: encounter or confrontation. And I thank you all, you who are on the path to the meeting: thank you for your united and concrete commitment in favor of human promotion and integration. Marseille is a model of integration. It is beautiful that here, with various realities that work with migrants, there is Marseille-Espérance, an instance of interreligious dialogue which promotes fraternity and peaceful coexistence. We turn to the pioneers and witnesses of the dialogue, like Jules Isaac who lived nearby and whose 60th death anniversary was recently commemorated. You are the Marseille of the future. Move forward without being discouraged, so that this city is for France, for Europe and for the world a mosaic of hope.
As a wish, I would finally like to quote a few words that David Sassoli said 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 sacred books and Greek philosophers. Today, we all feel, believers and lay people, the need to rebuild this house to continue together to fight idols, to tear down walls, to build bridges and to give substance to a new humanism. Looking at our time in depth and loving it even more when it is difficult to love, I believe that this is the seed sown in these days so concerned about our destiny. We must stop ‘be afraid of the problems that the Mediterranean poses to us! (…) For the European Union and for all of us, our survival depends on it’ (Speech on the occasion of the Meeting of reflection and spirituality “Mediterranean border of peace”February 22, 2020).
Brothers, sisters, let’s face problems together, let’s not let hope sink, let’s compose together a mosaic of peace!
I am happy to see that so many of you are here taking to the sea to save, to rescue migrants. And so many times you are prevented from going, because – they say – the boat is missing something, this is missing, that is missing… These are gestures of hatred against the brother, disguised as “balance “. Thanks for all you’ve done.