Cyprus – Patriarch Pizzaballa discusses the tragedy of refugees and migrants before Pope Francis

Most Holy Father,

During the past two days you have encountered many different and beautiful realities of Cyprus, the life of civil society, the life of our Church, you have also experienced the warm welcome of the Orthodox Church and many other notable initiatives. This morning, Your Holiness met the joyful Catholic community present on the island.

Now you turn your gaze to the painful and difficult reality that exists on this island, in which the daily dramas of the Mediterranean are symbolically presented. First of all that of the thousands of families of refugees and migrants, coming from different parts of the world, in particular from the tormented Middle East, with which our island is confronted. Cyprus, in fact, is the first of the Mediterranean islands to experience the tragedy of thousands of migrants, fleeing war and poverty and stopping here, with no way out and no clear prospect for their future. Later, you will listen to some testimonies, which will present this reality in a certainly more effective way, because they are direct, personal and come from personal experience.

It is a reality that we do not talk about, except at certain particularly dramatic moments; it is hidden from the eyes of the majority of the population. But no matter how much you want to keep her silent, she strikes the eyes of anyone who is paying attention to what is going on around them. We are talking about thousands of people here, who cannot remain invisible.

The drama of these people reminds us that the phenomenon of migration is not a local phenomenon, it does not concern any nation independently: neither Cyprus, nor the Middle East, nor North Africa, nor Greece, nor Turkey, neither Italy, nor Poland. It is a global phenomenon, which is present everywhere and which requires global responses, and about which the international community cannot fail to question itself. History teaches us that erecting barriers is never the solution, for barriers represent fear, erase any promise of the future, and underscore our lack of vision. It is this vision that is sorely lacking here and in the rest of the world. The countries of the first world cannot ignore that their future also depends on the answer to this serious problem. The future of Europe is played out in the Mediterranean, where not only the sources of energy and wealth, but also the human resources, the people and the populations, which we must face and without whom there will be no of development, no future.

Holy Father, you have said it rightly and on several occasions, our social, economic and development models must necessarily be rethought. They produce wealth for some and poverty for many, they cause a growing problem of pollution and migration of thousands – perhaps millions – of people, behind each of whom lie enormous family and personal tragedies, which do not not the headlines, but which deeply marked their lives.

Our Church is obviously not in a position to influence these huge processes, but it can listen to the voices of these people, give them a face and a name. This is our mission: to restore their dignity and identity to people whom many might prefer not to see or meet, but who exist, are real and await our response. It is the Lord himself, through them, who knocks at our door, who turns his gaze towards us, who questions our conscience. We cannot ignore it, we cannot be silent.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many volunteers, lay and religious, Cypriots and from all over the world, who dedicate themselves here to support the migrants on this island. Thanks to you, they find a place to be heard and supported.

Your Holiness,

thank you for wishing to be with us again, thank you for sharing with us and for your testimony of listening and peace. We wish you a successful continuation of your pilgrimage around the Mediterranean.

We accompany you with our prayers, with our gratitude for this brief but intense visit, for the words you have transmitted to us and for the path you have indicated to us.


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