Status: 03.12.2021 7:04 p.m.
Pope Francis has long been committed to protecting migrants and refugees. On his trip to Cyprus he met some – and criticized the way they were treated with harsh words.
It was a typical Francis moment. Actually, everything had already been said. The Pope had given his address to several hundred migrants in a church in Nicosia, largely read from the prepared manuscript.
Then Francis looked up, held the folded sheets of paper in front of him – and calculated in free speech and with unusual sharpness how wealthy countries deal with the suffering and death of refugees:
We’ll see what happens. And the worst part is that we get used to it. “Ah ‘, it is said,” a boat sank today, many missing.’ Getting used to it is a terrible disease! It is a very bad disease!
The Mediterranean a “great cemetery”
The migrants applauded Francis’ impromptu accusation. He in turn asked for indulgence for his emotional outburst. “Excuse me, but I want to say what is on my mind,” said the pontiff.
With a view to the refugees who died there, Pope Francis described the Mediterranean as a “great cemetery”. And he denounced that boats carrying migrants on the Mediterranean were being brought back to the countries from which they left. There, said Francis, the refugees were often treated inhumanely and taken to “camps”:
Real camp. Where the women are sold. The men are tortured and enslaved. We complain when we read the stories of the camps of the past century, that of the Nazis and that of Stalin. And we lament how that could have happened. Brothers and sisters, this is happening today on the nearby coasts.
Indirect criticism of Poland
Previously, in the prepared part of his address, Francis had, among other things, thrown in favor of the fact that “mankind lives without dividing walls”. In his spontaneous free speech, the Pope – without naming Poland – attacked countries that were rolling out barbed wire at the border to fend off refugees:
The one who comes, who asks for freedom, for bread, help, brotherhood, joy. Who flees from hatred. And who finds himself again with hatred, called barbed wire.
On the sidelines of the Pope’s visit, the Vatican agreed with the government in Nicosia that 50 refugees will be brought from Cyprus to Rome. The first twelve people by Christmas, the rest in January and February. Cyprus is the country in the European Union that currently has the highest number of refugees – measured by population.
Migration will also be an issue tomorrow in Greece
Benedictine monk Nicodemus Schnabel, who as patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem is also responsible for migrants in Cyprus, defends himself against voices accusing Francis that the action to bring refugees to Rome is only symbolic. Schnabel recalls that Francis brought refugees from Lesbos to Italy in 2016, whom he met again before his current trip:
That already shows that he is not interested in showmanship, in the sense of: Yes, that makes a Bella Figura now. But it is a very deep concern of his heart.
Migration will also be the focus of the second part of his trip. Francis is flying from Cyprus to Greece tomorrow and will travel to Lesbos there again. To try again in the reception center in Mytilene to shake things up and point out the fate of refugees – with and possibly again without a manuscript.
Pope in Cyprus – urgent appeal for change in refugee policy
Jörg Seisselberg, ARD Rome, December 3, 2021 6:42 p.m.