Cardinal Parolin: May Europe unite in face of Mediterranean challenges

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin offers Vatican Media his thoughts on the significance of Pope Francis’ visit to Marseille at the conclusion of the "Mediterranean Meetings", calling it an opportunity to promote a spirit of cohesion among European nations, particularly on the issue of migration.

Sep 22, 2023

File photo of Cardinal Pietro Parolin (TK KBS/ Peter Hric)

By Massimiliano Menichetti
Europe needs to find a consensus on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum as soon as possible.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, offered that perspective in an interview with Vatican Media on the eve of Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to Marseille.

The Pope travels to the southern French city on 22-23 September to participate in the closing of the "Mediterranean Meetings."

“All European countries," said the Cardinal, "must take responsibility together for the situation in the Mediterranean far from slogans and oppositions, having in mind more the faces than the numbers of a complex and dramatic issue.”

Q: Your Eminence, the Pope will be in Marseille for the "Mediterranean Meetings," where Catholic bishops from 30 Mediterranean countries, along with several mayors and young people, will meet. What will the Pope bring?

The Holy Father accepted the invitation to participate in this third edition of the "Mediterranean Meetings," which follows those of Bari and Florence, seeing in it a valuable opportunity for sharing and building the common good.

The "Mediterranean Meetings," in fact, in a context that brings together in an almost unique way different territories, peoples, histories and religions, promote unity in facing common and decisive challenges for a future that, like it or not, will be together or not, as the Pope has repeatedly reminded us.

I believe the Holy Father wants to bear witness in Marseille to this spirit of cohesion and concreteness. In the Mediterranean, the prevailing debate at the moment is related to the migration issue, where what emerges, beyond the difficulties, is precisely the need to address the problems together and with far-sighted vision, not just as emergencies of the moment that everyone tries to approach following their own particular interests.

Q: How do we build welcome, dialogue, and peace in a world that struggles to recognize the face of those in need?

I would say really in starting to seriously and actively believe in dialogue, which is not a useful tool to assert one's positions, but an open way to find shared solutions. You said that the world struggles to recognize the faces of those in need, and it is true: so many issues are unfortunately dealt with from "numbers" rather than "faces."

Instead, when we think about the drama of migrants, we need to start from the priority of human dignity over any other, legitimate consideration, circumventing that ideological thinking, against which the Pope warns, which puts theories, often propagandist, before the reality of facts.

The migration issue is a complex phenomenon, which has no simple and immediate solutions, and which should not be tackled through slogans and promises, but, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also recalled a few days ago, through "unified actions" that really commit resources to guarantee better conditions of reception, peace and stability.

Q: Wars, poverty, and violence often determine the need to leave one's country. Your Eminence, what are the concrete steps that should be taken for an awakening of the international community?

Although it is wars, poverty, and violence that determine the decision to leave one's country, we cannot forget that they are caused by those who commit acts of violence, those who trigger conflicts, and those who make political decisions that are not aimed at the common good.

The first step, then, is to take responsibility for the decisions we make every day in our homes, in our families, among friends, at work, at school, in our societies and in our governments. Crises, then, are not random, but matters of personal and collective choices.

I would say that there is a need for conversion, as a starting point for positive political proposals, investments and social projects aimed at building a culture of love and a fraternal society, where people are not forced to escape, but can live in peace, security and prosperity.

Q: In recent days, the landings of migrants have intensified on the Italian coast, particularly in Lampedusa. What to say to the inhabitants of the island who have always been welcoming, but for years have been asking not to be left alone?

First of all, no good deed is useless; no gesture of love and charity is wasted. Christ is present in our attempts to love and care for the least among us, and in every act of generosity we encounter Him and experience His presence.

However, those who engage in caregiving for migrants and refugees cannot be left alone to deal with these situations without the support of governments. They need solidarity at the national and international levels. More than one action plan is currently being discussed at the political level. Not only in Italy, but also in Europe.

Both the various development projects in Africa and the New Pact on Migration and Asylum come to mind. A consensus needs to be found on the Pact as soon as possible. All European countries must take responsibility for the situation in the Mediterranean together.

Q: The impression when we talk about migration flows is that we are always "at year zero"; instead, there are established models of integration and reception. How important is it to implement them and positive communication?

There are so-called best practices and action plans; we are not starting from scratch. There are models that can ensure that migration happens in a secure, orderly and regular manner.

So, we are all called to go beyond rhetoric and adopt effective policies that avoid overburdening the migrant reception system and support the work of people on the ground.

Q: What is expected from the Marseille meeting?

I would say that the title of the meeting itself, namely "Mosaic of Hope," well summarizes the expectations.

In fact, it is about reawakening hope and doing so - at a time when a climate of great intolerance and indifference is being perceived - together, and by converging on fundamental issues, around which it is not sides and oppositions that help, but collaboration and good will.

I am thinking, precisely, of the migration phenomenon, but also of the challenges of peace, climate change, the fight against hunger... In this sense, the Marseille meeting represents, through the joint work of ecclesial and civil leaders, an opportunity to promote hope in a concrete way.--Vatican News

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