By Linda Bordoni
During his visit to the coastal city of Bari, Pope Francis will participate in a conference with bishops from Mediterranean countries and celebrate Mass in front of the Basilica of St. Nicholas. It will be his second visit to the city following the one in July 2018 during which he prayed for peace in the Middle East, together with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
The event organized by the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) will focus on issues facing the region.
The President of CEI, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, explained that the meeting will take place in a “synod” style, with the formulation of a shared proposal for a final document.
He said its objective is to highlight the Mediterranean as a meeting of civilizations, a place where Christianity developed and is “therefore, a frontier of peace.”
Hailing from North Africa, Europe and the Middle East, participants are discussing issues connected to migration, evangelization of young people, unemployment, cultural exchanges and peacemaking.
Work starts on Wednesday afternoon when participants gather for the opening of the conference;
Thursday's topic will be “Delivering the Faith to Future Generations” and Friday's theme will be "Relationship Between Church and Society: Mobility, Citizenship, Religious Freedom, Inequality".
Both days will include morning roundtable discussions followed by assembly discussions and afternoon conclusions.
On Saturday, an assembly will be held for general conclusions that will be condensed into the final document, followed by the public event in Bari’s Petruzzelli Theatre entitled "In the Same Boat".
On Sunday, Pope Francis will address the meeting and receive the final document.
Migration and persecution of Christians
Migration is expected to take center stage given the numbers of people trying to enter Europe either from Turkey or from North Africa, many of them trafficked, exploited and caught in the cracks of inadequate policies for registration, reception and integration.
Another topic which is expected to be addressed in depth regards the dwindling of Christian communities in some Middle Eastern countries impacted by the rise of the so-called Islamic State and related forms of jihadist extremism.