In Marseille, the Pope denounces the French model of assimilation, as it "causes ghettos, hostility and intolerance"

On Saturday morning, Pope Francis met in Marseille with a group of members of SOS Mediterranée, an NGO that is responsible for helping migrants who shipwreck while trying to cross the Mediterranean

In Marseille, the Pope denounces the French model of assimilation, as it "causes ghettos, hostility and intolerance"

On Saturday morning, Pope Francis met in Marseille with a group of members of SOS Mediterranée, an NGO that is responsible for helping migrants who shipwreck while trying to cross the Mediterranean. One of them gave him a child's life jacket: "What we wanted was to invite him to our (rescue) boat, but since he cannot come, we have brought him the boat through this symbolic object: a vest that has saved his life." of many babies. It was last used just a few weeks ago.

The meeting, which took place in the morning, illustrates well the Pope's two-day visit to Marseille and the substance of his message: in favor of immigration and very critical of Europe, which is now debating what to do with the tens of thousands of without papers that have arrived in just a few days to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Francisco already said it on Friday, having just landed, and this Saturday he reiterated it: People who "risk their lives at sea do not invade, they seek shelter, they seek life," he said in a speech at the Palacio del Faro with which he closed the Mediterranean meetings, which have brought together bishops and faithful these days. "There is a cry that resonates and turns Mare Nostrum into Mare Mortum," he said in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron.

The visit was short, but the Pontiff's message was forceful and with a lot of political content. Addressed to Europe, which he does not agree on how to distribute the illegals arriving in Lampedusa; to the far-right parties that wave the flag of fear of foreigners; to those who think that migrants are going to take away their privileges: "The words invasion and emergency feed people's fears," recalled the Pope, who denounced this "alarmist propaganda."

"Hello Marseille, hello France": this is how his mass began in the afternoon, the closing of his trip, before tens of thousands of people at the Velodrome, the stadium where Olympique de Marseille plays. It was held under strong security measures, with more than 5,000 agents on the streets. In the homily, the Pope warned that European society "can fall ill" into "cynicism, disenchantment, resignation, uncertainty."

The Pontiff, who had insisted that he was traveling "to Marseille, but not to France", hinted at a criticism of the country, although without explicitly citing him, by denouncing its assimilation model. This "does not take differences into account, is rigid in its paradigms, makes the idea prevail over reality" and also "compromises the future, increasing distances, causing ghettos, hostility and intolerance," Francis had said in the morning.

This is the scheme that France follows, where diverse cultures and religions coexist (there are 10% Muslims), but where the principle of secularism governs: the non-interference of religion in the functioning of society. For this reason, religious signs are not allowed in schools, for example. To preserve it, the Government has just banned access to classes with an abaya, the typical female tunic in some Muslim countries. The measure has been controversial, as some believe that it discriminates against students of this religion.

France "has nothing to be ashamed of, as it has always been a country of welcome and integration," had defended Emmanuel Macron, who met privately with the Pope. Focused on giving the Pontiff a warm welcome (he gave him two books and they walked arm in arm), the meeting lasted half an hour and both talked above all about the migration issue and also "about the common challenges" that Europe faces, according to sources close to the Pope. president. The Pope thanked Paris for its efforts to fight human trafficking and provide "human solutions."

Macron's presence at the mass was highly criticized, as part of the opposition believes that it is contrary to the principle of secularism. From the Elysée they insisted that he attended the religious event as head of state, not as a Catholic. Macron, who is baptized but has never shown a religious belief, has already met Pope Francis four times since he has been president. He was already at the funeral of former president Jacques Chirac and has also gone to synagogues and events to mark Ramadan.

After his homily, Francis was baptized "as a Marseille," said Archbishop Jean-Marc Aveline. In this enclave, one of the most multicultural cities in France (a "crucible of hope") and where a third of the population is Muslim, he asked to fight "against the epidemic of indifference": "Our metropolitan lives, and so many European countries where different cultures and religions coexist, they are a great challenge against exacerbations and individualism, against the selfishness that produces loneliness and suffering," he said. Francis left the Velodrome to a standing ovation from those in attendance and shouts of "Papa Francesco."