Migration on the Mediterranean waters Migration on the Mediterranean waters  (ANSA)

Conference highlights migration challenges in Mediterranean

A conference organized Thursday by the Italian Bishops ahead of a meeting of Mayors and Bishops of the Mediterranean region (23 – 27 February) highlights the joint efforts between Church and civil authorities to combat the challenge of migration in countries bordering the Mediterranean.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ

The meeting of the Bishops and Mayors of the Mediterranean region will be held from 23 – 27 February in Florence, ending with a visit of Pope Francis on the last day.

The Florence meeting will be an opportunity to continue the reflections which began during the Pope’s visit to Bari in February 2020 for a meeting themed “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace” which brought together bishops from twenty nations bordering the Mediterranean at a time when thousands of migrants brave the sea in their quest to make the shores of Europe.


Ahead of the event, the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) organized a press conference on Thursday to present the initiative, highlighting the important dynamics of the meeting and the idea behind the joint involvement of both Church and civil authorities in the face of this challenge of migration centered around the Mare Nostrum.

Among the speakers at the event include Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve and President of the CEI; Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence; Bishop Antonino Raspanti, Vice-President of the CEI; and Dr. Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence.

The importance of encounter

Cardinal Bassetti highlighted the importance of the February meeting, which follows the 2020 meeting in Bari, noting that it provides the opportunity for Bishops and Mayors to meet, both separately and then together, to outline the issues and the challenges that the countries bordering the Mare Nostrum are called to face.

He notes that the Mediterranean is a “great theatre of social tensions”, with urgent problems that should be faced together. He adds that this joins Pope Francis has always insisted on a “multi-faceted” approach to these problems of the Mediterranean region.

He recalls that these problems are not new. Even Giorgio La Pira, the Mayor of Florence after the war, faced similar problems as we face today, including new forms of poverty and unemployment, among others. These same challenges, La Pira noted, can be confronted with an attitude of “encounter” that corresponds with the social nature of humans.

For Cardinal Bassetti, there is a common good in the Mediterranean, which exists even today – an essential part of development – not just for those around the Mare nostrum but for all of humanity.

Church and civil authorities to meet

Bishop Raspanti gave a detailed outline of the upcoming meeting of the Bishops. Work begins on 23 February with a discourse on “Cities and Citizenship in the Mediterranean.” On 24 and 25 February, the Bishops’ meetings will be centered on the “rights and duties” of the religious communities in the cities in view of contributing towards peace.

He explains that the “city” in La Pira’s opinion, carries the advantage of being able to truly construct fraternity and peace, as opposed to the nation-state. In this light, he highlights the great role that religious communities can play in interreligious dialogue and in providing care for those in need.

On 26 February, there will be the joint meeting of the Bishops and the Mayors, which will be aimed at producing a common pledge which will be jointly signed and presented to Pope Francis on Sunday morning, 27 February, before the celebration of the Mass at the Basilica of the Holy Cross.

The days of meeting will also see the Bishops and delegates visit important places of the Florentine Church, and a time of prayer.

Bishop Raspanti reiterates the commitment of the Church to this initiative in light of the spirit of the ongoing Synodal process. The idea is to involve all the baptized to join in discerning ways and solutions to problems facing the church in the light of the Gospel, and for everyone, according to their charisms, to do their part to contribute to creating solutions.

The hospitality of Florence

The Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Betori highlighted the religious and cultural richness of some places of interest and locations in Florence. He explains that there will be five opportunities for the participants to visit different places.

The first, linked with the history of the Florentine Church, is the fusion between art and faith which will involve the exhibition of the “Three Pietas” of Michaelangelo in the Cathedral. The second, will be a consideration of the personality of Giorgio La Pira, his work as a lecturer of law and Mayor of Florence, and his work for peace in the Mediterranean, which will take place close to the tomb of La Pira in the Basilica of St. Mark. Another will be an illustration of other figures whose lives surround that of La Pira, including Venerable Elia dalla Costa, Venerable Don Giulio Facibeni, Don Lorenzo Milani, Don Divo Barsotti, showing the link between faith and the dignity of man.

The fourth will be centered on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in Florence, while the last will highlight the Church’s charitable work in Florence.

The meeting of Mayors

For his part, the current Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, expressed gratitude for the choice of Florence as the location for the meeting. He highlighted that this recalls the significant achievement of his predecessor, La Pira, who gathered the mayors of capital cities for a meeting in 1955.

He stresses that the meeting of the bishops and mayors is a sign of hope and strength, noting that it is the first meeting of its kind. He explained that the meeting of mayors will focus on discussing several themes, including cultural cooperation as an instrument of political and economic growth in the Mediterranean, health security, the care of the environment, and migration.

On the last day of the meeting, Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass in the Basilica of Santa Croce followed by the Angelus in the square outside of the Basilica.

10 February 2022, 15:24