Pope Francis is preparing to take a new stage in his Mediterranean pilgrimage with the trip that will take him to Cyprus and Greece from December 2 to 6. It will be the eighth since the start of his pontificate, after the island of Lampedusa in 2013, the Holy Land, Albania and Turkey in 2014, the Greek island of Lesbos in 2016, Egypt in 2017, Morocco. in 2019. To which we can add Iraq, in March, for the repercussions that the events in this country have on the riparian states. And maybe one day Lebanon, where he absolutely wants to go as soon as possible. He received its prime minister, Najib Mikati, on November 25, in Rome.
This series of visits underscores the importance that the first American pope attaches more than ever to “This crucial region of the world (…), physical and spiritual place in which our civilization took shape, as a result of the meeting of several peoples ”, as he explained in February 2020, during a meeting of bishops of the Mediterranean, in Bari (Italy). Moreover, the Vatican has just announced that the Sovereign Pontiff would attend a new meeting of this type in February 2022, in Florence. Around a hundred mayors of neighboring towns and as many bishops will be gathered around the theme: “The Mediterranean, frontier of civilization, frontier of peace”.
The Mediterranean intersects with all the issues frequently put forward by Pope Francis: inequalities of wealth and open or latent conflicts, migration and human trafficking of all kinds, the face-to-face of religions and ecumenical dialogue …
According to an expression he is fond of, in this region more than elsewhere perhaps, ” everything is connected “. “It is for him an exemplary place, symbolic of a North-South relationship which is close to his heart, he who comes from a country in the South and perceives the problem of migration across the Mediterranean,” emphasizes Pascal Gollnisch, director general of the Catholic association l’Oeuvre d’Orient. It is also a very strong place for Islamic-Christian dialogue. “
François has invested a lot in these interreligious relations, in particular through his meetings with Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the grand imam of the Al-Azhar mosque, in Cairo, authority of Sunni Islam, and the grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani , spiritual authority of the Shiites of Iraq.
“The Mediterranean, mother of crossbreeding”
In the speech given in Bari, François explained his vision of the Mediterranean area and its challenges. “This sea obliges the peoples and the riparian cultures to be in constant proximity”, he observed. He had developed various aspects of these relations which can be a source of imbalances and tensions, such as economic inequalities, migration currents, relations between religious traditions, the temptation of national-populism.
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