Ahead of his visit to Cyprus and Greece, Pope Francis said on Saturday his thoughts were with those fleeing wars and poverty who died in the sea or who were met with hostility instead of hospitality when they managed to reach a shore.
In a message ahead of his visit to the island on Thursday, Pope Francis said Europe cannot ignore the Mediterranean, the sea that accommodated the dissemination of the Gospel and the development of great civilisations.
“Mare Nostrum (as the Mediterranean was called by the Romans), our sea, which connects so many countries, urges us to sail together and not follow separate ways, especially at this moment when fighting the pandemic continues to require a common pledge and the climate crisis is imminent,” he said.
“The sea, which embraces many peoples, reminds us with its open ports that the sources of coexistence are found in mutual acceptance.”
He said he already felt welcome and thanked everyone who prepared his visit.
“But I also think of those who in recent years, today even, flee war and poverty, land on the shores of the continent and elsewhere, and find no hospitality but hostility, even exploitation,” he said.
“They are our brothers and sisters. How many have lost their life at sea? Today, our sea, the Mediterranean, is a big cemetery.”
Pope Francis said he was going to Greece and Cyprus as a pilgrim, following the footsteps of the first great missionaries, especially Apostles Paul and Barnabas.
“It is good to return to our roots and it is important for the Church to rediscover the joy of the Gospel.”
In a written statement, the government said thousands of people will be travelling to Cyprus from around the region to attend a prayer at the Catholic church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia, but also an open-air mass at the GSP stadium.