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In front of migrants from Lesbos, Pope Francis calls for an end to the “shipwreck of civilization”


Visiting the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis called on Sunday to put an end to a “shipwreck of civilization”, during a poignant speech at the Mavrovouni migrant camp. Sadly known for its migratory tragedies, the Sovereign Pontiff called the Mediterranean Sea a “cold cemetery without tombstones”.

In front of forty exiles, Pope Francis called on Sunday, December 5 to end a “shipwreck of civilization” during a vibrant speech at the Mavrovouni migrant camp in Lesbos, five years after his first visit to this Greek island emblematic of the migration crisis.

The Mediterranean “is becoming a cold cemetery without tombstones (…) I beg you, let’s stop this sinking of civilization! », Launched the sovereign pontiff, on the second day of his visit to Greece, marked by a lightning visit to Lesbos.

In the Mavrovouni camp, which still houses nearly 2,200 asylum seekers, the Pope was warmly welcomed by a crowd of migrants who had gathered between the containers and the tents of the camp. The Holy Father greeted and blessed the families present at length, including many children. “Welcome! “,” We love you “, we could hear.

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Under a tent, he then listened to the joyful songs of a choir of exiles, before being saddened that the Mediterranean, “cradle of so many civilizations” is “henceforth like a mirror of death”, recalling “the images floods of small bodies lying on the beaches ”.

“Let us not allow the mare nostrum to turn into a desolate mare mortuum, for this meeting place to become the theater of conflicts!” Let us not let this sea of ​​memories become the sea of ​​oblivion ”, he urged in front of the Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas and the Greek Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi.

About forty asylum seekers, mostly Catholics from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then attended the prayer to the Virgin said by the Pope.

Previously, Christian Tango, a 31-year-old Congolese, addressed the Pope, thanking him for his “spirit of humanity” which he “manifests” to all his “migrant and refugee children”, before asking him for his prayers. “To have a safe place in Europe”.

“We are humans, not prisoners”

“We are humans, we refugees. We must be treated like humans and not like prisoners, ”Congolese Orphée Madouda, who attended the prayer, told AFP.

Nearly 900 police officers have been deployed to the Greek island. Banners here and there had flourished in the city of Mytilene and around the camp to welcome “Pope Francis” or denounce the alleged refoulements of migrants to Turkey.

In the open air, the tent camp was hastily erected a year ago, on a former army firing range on the Aegean island, when the structure of Moria, then the largest in Europe, was destroyed by flames.

When the island of Lesbos was the main gateway for tens of thousands of migrants to Europe, Pope Francis visited Moria in April 2016 and symbolically said: “We are all migrants”.

Leitmotif of his pontificate, the cause of refugees remains this time again the cornerstone of the 35e travel of the pope.

Jorge Bergoglio, himself from a family of Italian migrants settled in Argentina, never ceases to advocate the reception of thousands of “brothers and sisters”, without distinguishing between religion, nor refugee status or economic exile.

The 84-year-old Argentine pontiff regretted on Saturday that “Europe persists in procrastinating” in the face of the arrivals of migrants “sometimes blocked” and “torn by nationalist egoisms”, “instead of being a motor of solidarity”.

Stop refoulements of migrants to Turkey

The Pope found in Lesbos a different situation from 2016 but around forty NGOs have nonetheless urged Francis to intervene to put an end to the alleged refoulements of exiles to Turkey, which Athens denies.

In a letter to the Pope, they also denounced the establishment in Greece of camps “closed and with controlled access,” financed in part by European funds.

Surrounded by barbed wire and closed by X-ray portals, three of these camps have already opened on the islands of Samos, Leros and Kos, those of Lesbos and Chios being planned for next year.

The pontiff’s visit to Lesbos, shorter than in 2016, will be followed on Sunday in Athens by a mass in front of some 2,500 faithful in a huge concert hall.

With AFP

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