MARSEILLE: Pope Francis said on Friday European governments had a duty to rescue asylum-seekers who take to sea to escape conflict, warning against a “paralysis of fear” as he entered the growing political controversy on the first day of a visit to the French Mediterranean city of Marseille.
The city was decked out in the yellow and white colours of the Vatican for the first visit by a pope to France’s second-largest metropolis in 500 years, where 100,000 people are expected to turn out to greet the pontiff in his “popemobile” on Saturday.
The 86-year-old is visiting to take part in a meeting of Mediterranean-area Catholic bishops and young people, but his trip comes at a politically sensitive time.
As European nations have sought to shift responsibility for taking care of people arriving by sea, the pope singled out “the disinterest that, with velvet gloves, condemns others to death”.
“People who are at risk of drowning when abandoned on the waves must be rescued,” he said from the hilltop Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooking the glistening Mediterranean waters.
In remarks dedicated to migrants lost at sea, he said “it is a duty of humanity, it is a duty of civilisation” to save people in difficulty, warning governments against the “fanaticism of indifference” and “paralysis of fear”.
A surge in migrant boats arriving from North Africa on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa last week triggered outrage in Italy and a heated debate across Europe over how to share responsibility for the influx.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2023