Cardinal Lopez Romero: Pope visits Marseilles to build peace without borders

As Marseille awaits the arrival of Pope Francis for the Mediterranean Meetings, the Cardinal Archbishop of Rabat shares his hopes for the work of the ecumenical gathering which is seeking to unite peoples in peace.

Sep 21, 2023

Cardinale Lopez Romero

By Delphine Allaire – Marseille
Seventy Mediterranean Bishops have arrived in the southern French city of Marseille to take part in the Mediterranean Meetings, seeking to discover paths to peace in the area surrounding what the ancient Romans called the Mare Nostrum, or “Our Sea”.

Ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival in Marseille on Friday, Cardinal Cristobal Lopez Romero, Archbishop of Rabat, Morocco, presided over the opening Mass for the Bishops on Thursday in Marseille's Cathedral of St. Mary Major.

In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Lopez Romero offered his thoughts on the Mediterranean Meetings and on Pope Francis’ scheduled participation in the concluding event on Saturday.

Q: As the Archbishop of Rabat and President of CERNA, the conference of bishops from North Africa, what are your thoughts on the Mediterranean Meetings in Marseille?

We, the bishops of CERNA (Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa), gave our faithful a pastoral letter eight years ago, entitled "Servants of Hope". These Meetings can be a source of hope.

The meetings in Bari, Florence and now Marseilles have already helped us to realise that we all belong to the Mediterranean, despite our differences. This invites us to make the Mediterranean not a border of peace, but a peace without borders.

The first fruit of these meetings should therefore be to establish peace and grow in unity.

Q: What are you going to share with the other bishops gathered for these Meetings? What is your main concern?

First of all, we need to be aware of our unity. What unites us is more important than what separates us. This is logical, because we are all bishops, sharing the same faith, Christ, who impels us. From this unity, we must contribute to peace and unity in the Mediterranean.

There are too many theatres of conflict and tension in this region, just think of the Balkans, Croatia and Serbia, Morocco and Algeria, Greece and Turkey, Israel and Palestine, not to mention Syria, Iraq or Ukraine and Russia, which are all part of the Black Sea and therefore part of the Mediterranean.

We must consider that we are all brothers working for the common good, not the nationalist common good but the universal common good.

Why not seek a Mediterranean community? Why not increase collaboration between the northern and southern shores and support for the eastern and Middle Eastern shores? I believe that peace and unity are key words in our Mediterranean meetings.

Q: How do you view the migration crisis, which is becoming more and more pressing by the day? From Tunisia to Italy, from Morocco to Spain, this is a complex issue. What can the Church do?

We're working hard on this issue. Sunday is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and this year's theme is "Free to migrate, free to stay". Emigrating is a human right, but before that right to migrate, everyone also has the right to stay where they were born and where they have developed their lives.

The Church, in collaboration with governments and civil society, helps people to become aware of these rights and also to fight to be able to exercise them. Rights do not fall from the sky; we have to claim them. They are the result of personal and community efforts.

Each country must see how to deal with these migratory phenomena, which are not in themselves problems. The problems are war, political persecution, and economic inequality. All of these factors lead to disorder in migration, which could become a permanent phenomenon in the history of humanity, an orderly, regular, and positive issue.

Q: How do you view Pope Francis' Mediterranean pilgrimage from Lampedusa in 2013, to Morocco, home in 2019, to Marseilles today, visiting a total of 17 countries bordering the Mediterranean?

This figure is already significant and carries a message. It means that the Pope recognizes the importance of this Mediterranean basin and that he is committed to it.

By coming to Bari, by coming now here to Marseilles, and by supporting this whole process of Mediterranean Meetings. I hope that his presence here in Marseille will awaken many consciences.

Q: The protection of Christians on some shores of the Mediterranean more than others and religious freedom is also at the heart of these meetings. How can this be preserved in the Mediterranean?

We Catholics represent only a small part of the humanity of the Mediterranean. Later on, we should launch calls for inter-religious and ecumenical Mediterranean meetings, with the Muslims and the Orthodox.

It's not just a question of defending the rights of Catholics or Christians, but the rights of everyone to freedom of conscience and religious freedom.

As Catholics suffer in some countries, Muslims suffer in others, and Jews are victims of anti-Semitism in some places. Religious freedom will never be achieved if religions do not work together for the common good.--Vatican News

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