(Vatican News) During his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on his recently-concluded Apostolic Journey to Marseille for the conclusion of the Mediterranean Meetings.
"I can say that I found passion and enthusiasm in Marseille."
This was how Pope Francis during his weekly Wednesday General Audience in the Vatican, fondly remembered his recent Apostolic Journey to Marseille, France, for the occasion of the “Mediterranean Meetings”, which gathered bishops and young people to reflect on migration.
The Pope observed these characteristics present in the two-day Visit's protagonists, including the French port city's pastor, Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline; priests and consecrated persons; the faithful laity dedicated to charity, to education; and the People of God "who showed great warmth" during the Mass in the Vélodrome Stadium.
The Pope thanked them all, as well as President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, "whose presence testified that all of France was paying attention to the event in Marseille."
The dream, and the challenge, the Pope went on to say, is "that the Mediterranean might recover its vocation, that of being a laboratory of civilization and peace."
"The Mediterranean is the cradle of civilization and a cradle is for life! It is not tolerable that it become a tomb, neither should it be a place of conflict. No."
The Mediterranean Sea, the Pope stated, "is the complete opposite of the clash between civilizations, war, human trafficking." Rather, he argued, it 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.
While he acknowledged that the sea is always an abyss to overcome in some way, which can become dangerous, the Holy Father recalled that 2,000 years ago, from its eastern shore, the Gospel of Jesus set out to proclaim to the peoples.
History of the Meetings
The Holy Father explained that the Mediterranean Meetings in Marseille came after similar meetings that took place in Bari in 2020, and in Florence last year. "It was not an isolated event, but a step forward," he said. These type of meetings, he suggested, began with the “Mediterranean Colloquia” organized by Giorgio La Pira, the Mayor of Florence, at the end of the 1950s.
He said they also respond today to the appeal launched by Saint Paul VI in his Encyclical Populorum progressio, to promote “a more humane world community, where all can give and receive, and where the progress of some is not bought at the expense of others,” as he examined the fruits the Mediterranean Meetings produced.
He praised the event's having contributed to building a "human" outlook on the Mediterranean, one that is not "ideological, strategic, not politically correct nor instrumental," but "that is, capable of referring everything to the primary value of the human person and his or her inviolable dignity."
In addition to this, the Pope said those days inspired hope.
"Brothers and sisters," Pope Francis insisted, "this hope cannot and must not “evaporate”; no, rather, it needs to be organized, to be concretized through long, medium and short-term actions."
Choice to emigrate or not emigrate
This, the Pope said, means working "so that people, in complete dignity, can choose to emigrate or not to emigrate," which - he reminded - was the theme of the recent World Day of Migrant and Refugees.
The Pope also stated that hope needs to be restored to European societies, especially to the new generations, saying Europe must rediscover its passion and enthusiasm.
Pope Francis concluded by praying that Our Lady, "whom the people of Marseille venerate as Notre Dame de la Garde, accompany the journey of the peoples of the Mediterranean so that this region might become what it has always been called to be – a mosaic of civilization and hope."
Pope Francis' two-day visit to Marseille marked the Holy Father's 44th Apostolic Journey abroad, and second Visit to a French city.