PBecause they are detached from temporal concerns, men of faith can sometimes state truths forbidden to politicians, outline utopian perspectives, provoke a start, and even personify a pivotal moment. It is impossible to say whether the call to “duty of civilization” to rescue migrants threatened with drowning, launched by Pope Francis on Friday September 22 in Marseille, facing the Mediterranean, will have an impact comparable to ” Do not be afraid ! » of John Paul II in 1978, interpreted as a challenge to the Soviet regime.
This time, the message, delivered from the admirable site of Notre-Dame de la Garde, wants to shake up not only French and European Catholics, but public opinions and governments, at a crucial moment: the one where the “fanaticism of indifference” denounced by the Pope threatens to overwhelm the “duty of humanity”.
Elected a few months ago, Pope Francis went, in July 2013, to the Italian island of Lampedusa, after a maritime immigration tragedy, in order to denounce “the globalization of indifference” Who “accustomed to the suffering of others”. Ten years later, 30,000 migrants died, and the Mediterranean became “the largest cemetery in the world”. The rescue actions of non-governmental organizations are criticized, the European Union withdraws, and struggles to coordinate the policies of its member states, where rising xenophobia continues to be exploited.
Delivered before Marseille city councilors and representatives of all faiths in a simple and direct style, the papal speech forcefully takes up all the elements of the numerous calls for “fraternal responsibility” with migrants, to the compassion, hospitality and refusal of indifference with which he marked his pontificate. Well beyond a message to believers, it is a stone in the pond of European leaders, starting with the French executive, launched a few days after a new influx of migrants in Lampedusa, the unconvincing response of the EU and, particularly, the categorical refusal of any reception of immigrants, by the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin.
Pope Francis, inviting European leaders to “stop being afraid of the problems that the Mediterranean poses to us”, when “our survival depends on it”, rightly makes the reception of migrants and the rescue of boats in danger the marker of respect for the values of civilization to which Europe claims. By putting them into perspective, political leaders undermine the foundations that allow the continent to shine in the world.
Courageous, politically adept and skilled communicator, François takes the heat from his host, Emmanuel Macron, who intends to benefit from the prestige of the papal visit, while using his stopover in Marseille to address all Europeans. Ironically, the generous speech of the Argentine pope, grandson of Italian immigrants, is designed to delight the left, including the most anticlerical.
It remains to reconcile the spiritual and the temporal, the fundamental humanist message, and the management of very complex international realities, to make the “right not to have to emigrate” defended on other occasions by the Pope, and which involves the countries of origin, and the possibility of seeking a better future in Europe. In the meantime, this profoundly human call to order provides, against the grain, a welcome breath of fresh air in a debate on migration threatened by indifference, even by cynicism.