Refugee shipwreck in the Mediterranean

Bishops in Spain, France defend refugee rescue as Med countries close their ports

Two bishops in Spain and France have launched a strong defence of the reception of refugees in Europe as countries around the Mediterranean continue to close their doors to migrants.

Driving the news

“Ships continue to look for ports among the dead in the Mediterranean, as in other crossroads between life and death, oppression and freedom, hunger and safety”, Auxiliary Bishop of Valladolid and Spanish Bishops’ spokesman Luis Argüello wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

Argüello was referring to the drama of the Spanish migrant rescue ship Open Arms, which has been denied permission by Italy and Malta to dock in those countries’ ports nine days after saving the 121 refugees it is carrying on board.

Acting Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said Thursday Spain wouldn’t open its ports to the Open Arms, which on Friday was still stranded thirty nautical miles from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

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“We are not a country nor a government that can be questioned in these issues and we are not the closest nor most secure port in this situation”, Calvo told reporters.

But Argüello on Wednesday had criticised the Spanish Government’s obstructionist attitude.

“Affirming the sacred dignity of human life, organising hospitality, fighting the mafias and addressing the economic and political causes of forced migration could be elements of a government program for the common good”, wrote Argüello, referring to the ongoing negotiations around the formation of a new Government in Spain after last April’s general elections.

“It’s a sign of the times”, added the bishop of the migrant crisis.

“The need and desire” refugees have to seek protection in Europe “are so strong that people run the certain risk of hunger, oppression and death to be able to live in freedom, safety and hope”, Argüello explained.

“If we read the signs of the times we discover a judgment – our house is not in order – and a call to action”, he added.

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Go deeper

Another bishop to come out in support of the reception of refugees in Europe is the new Archbishop of Marseille, Jean-Marc Aveline.

In an interview with Vatican News, Aveline – named to the new post by the Pope on Thursday – said “it is very important to welcome migrants who arrive, sometimes as castaways”.

“Marseille is often presented as the gateway to Europe, so we have many different communities here”, said the new archbishop, adding that the “cultural and religious plurality” is a “challenge”.

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“I would like to strengthen ties with Christian communities on the other side of the Mediterranean”, added the prelate, who also said he has already invited bishops from the Maghreb to his inauguration.

Aveline, who was born in Algeria and since 2013 has been an auxiliary bishop in Marseille, said among the other priorities in his new post would be tackling “economic inequality”, broaching the question of “social consolidation” and supporting the youth of the French port city.

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