An Italian cardinal has decried this “dark moment in Mediterranean history”, the fruit of “violence, inequalities, exploitation… [and] the logic of the strongest” and a lack of “attention and care for the weak”.

Driving the news

“The political systems with which the life of the Mediterranean peoples are organized are, even if with different degrees of intensity, in crisis”, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti warned December 13 in a lecture at the San Tommaso Theological Institute of Messina.

“War, in several points of the Mediterranean, is the dramatically inconclusive outcome of short-sighted choices and from which colonial logics, old and new, are not absent”, the President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference deplored.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has basically dropped off the concerns of international leaders and no one believes any longer in a peace between Israel and Palestine, which is in contrast necessary for the balance of the whole world”, Bassetti warned.

Go deeper

The cardinal went on to warn people of the European Mediterranean that “they certainly cannot think of themselves sheltered from these tensions” in other areas around the ‘Mare Nostrum’.

“Both because of the military, economic and commercial ties that bind them to areas of conflict, and because of the migrations generated from economic imbalances and from the conflicts [in the Mediterranean] themselves”, Bassetti explained.

Denouncing that the Mediterranean is suffering from three main problems – food and health crises, the fragility of the system protecting the weakest and the tepidity of the international community with regard to the region – Bassetti deplored that it is “accepted that the migration phenomenon is managed with systems contrary to human rights and international law”.

“The Mediterranean is not only the theatre of wars, it is also a frontier that divides uneven economic and demographic areas”, the cardinal insisted.

Why it matters

In his lecture, Bassetti flagged a series of challenges to tackle in the Mediterranean region.

Those challenged included “frontiers to break down, an ecosystem to care for, dangerous ideologies to unmask [and] unjust social structures to fight, because the Mediterranean crisis is a food crisis, which is not shared in an equitable and just manner”.

In those tasks, said the cardinal, the different Churches have much to contribute in their plurality, and in “the space of the ecumenical journey and the space of interreligious dialogue”.

“Inter-religious dialogue is the radical rejection of the false image of God as a god of war, a choice for non-violent action and the protection and promotion of the irrepressible dignity of every human being”, Bassetti insisted.

In those sentiments, the cardinal was echoing the famous Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together jointly signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in Abu Dhabi in February.

With their ecumenism and their interreligious dialogue, Christians can become a “leaven in a Mediterranean of unity and peace and can contribute to the protection of the rights of the disenfranchised, of peace and of the defence of Creation”, Bassetti said.

What’s next

To become the leaven in a peaceful Mediterranean is exactly the challenge Bassetti has set for the meeting of the bishops of the region he has organised for next February.

The cardinal warned that “no striking or spectacular result can be expected from this ‘fraternity meeting’, which is one step in a much longer process, aimed at the unity of the families of the Mediterranean peoples”.

But he added that the bishops will work towards “a total revision of the mentality behind the relations between the Mediterranean countries that together must take note that their existence is conditioned by a history and geography that obliges them to live together”.

The “essential task for the present and for the future” of the Mediterranean countries “is to learn to live together and to be prophets of peace and justice for the entire human family”, Bassetti concluded.

Next on Novena:

Cardinal Bassetti, to Salvini: “Help those in need, Italians or foreigners”

Cardinal Bassetti warns “culture of European humanism in deep crisis”

Italian cardinal decries resurgence of “ancient ideological hatreds”

Pope pleads for “encounter and dialogue” to right “enormous injustices” in Mediterranean