A Vatican and an Italian cardinal are looking forward to the Bari ‘synod’ that begins today with bishops from all around the ‘Mare Nostrum’ as the start of a “great Mediterranean spring”.

– Cardinal Sandri: “For a world for the good of the people”

That expression of a new springtime for the region belongs to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, who in an interview with SIR February 17 expressed his hopes for the “Mediterranean, frontier of peace” encounter that will take place February 19-23, on the initiative of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and in the presence, Sunday, of Pope Francis.

The aim of the ‘synod’ with 58 bishops and patriarchs from countries around the sea “is to offer a synodal occasion to gain awareness on the magnitude of the problems that the Mediterranean area is confronted with, notably the humanitarian crisis of migrants who leave their lands as a result of wars, instability, poverty, and seek a safe haven of peace”, Sandri explained.

The cardinal expressed his desire that the bishops’ meet will serve to ensure the Mediterranean be “not a wall but a bridge for all Christian and non-Christian realities that border on its shores”.

“The world we look forward to is one based not on division and separation but on unity and fraternity”, Sandri stressed, adding that Christians and non-Christians around the Mediterranean must work as one “to help create a world for the good of the people without distinction of ethnicity, opinion, faith, political ideas”.

“A world where access to education, housing, health care, employment is possible for everyone, where young people can form a family, where the dignity of women is defended. I would define it a great spring of the Mediterranean”, Sandri affirmed.

– Cardinal Bagnasco: “Populism is a pathology that deludes the people and betrays them”

For his part, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) also told SIR February 18 that he hoped the Bari synod would serve as a challenge to the populism and sovereignism currents presently sweeping over the whole of Europe.

“‘People’ is a serious term, populism is a pathology that deludes the people and betrays them”, Bagnasco decried, adding that “the same applies to the sovereignty of a people with respect to sovereignism. ‘Isms’ tend to proclaim themselves superior and close themselves off to others”.

On the question of migration, the cardinal warned that “it is possible to become insensitive to the suffering of others, it is possible to play down evil, to turn a blind eye before hundreds of refugees on journeys of despair, hoping for a decent and better future, a land of peace and of peaceful and industrious coexistence”.

But, Bagnasco added, “the Gospel is clear and it cannot be changed according to fashion or convenience: those who speculate on the misery and fear of others, for whatever reason, lose their humanity”.

– “Europe must establish a serious migration policy, without hypocrisy”

That’s why “Europe must establish a serious policy that tackles the phenomenon of migration, without hypocrisy and disguised interests”, the cardinal explained, since “every person has inherent dignity, and they cannot be used as an ‘expedient’ for something else”.

Decrying the “flight of so many honest migrants” as a consequence of war – always “a source of profit for some and of political power for others, a tragedy for many poor and defenceless people” – Bagnasco accused Brussels of “major, unbearable hypocrisy” for “staging peace meetings and talks without following the paths of justice”.

– “Justice is proclaimed and injustice is perpetrated”

“The world is unbalanced between increased wealth for the few and exponential poverty for the multitudes. This is happening at continental and national level alike”, the cardinal deplored.

He added: “Justice is proclaimed and injustice is perpetrated. War and violence are consequences of this”.

In Bagnasco’s opinion, this “injustice” between the different sides of the Mediterranean is an issue the fathers of the Bari synod will have to tackle head on.

“A continuous conversion of hearts is needed”, the cardinal insisted, “for no one is master of others, not even of himself, and earthly life is not everything; power and wealth are values but not idols, they are not ends but service to humanity”.

“One day we will have to account for what we have done or not done for the good of all”, Bagnasco warned.

Novena’s coverage of the Bari Mediterranean ‘synod’:

Catholic Archbishop of Athens: “Greece is determined to break the shackles of the economic and financial crisis”

Vicar apostolic in Turkey: “The Mediterranean has forgotten its vocation to hospitality”

Athens Catholic archbishop accuses EU of “great inconsistency” on migrants

Spanish-African bishops insist: “No Christian should have a negative attitude towards immigrants”

Italian bishop: Bari ‘Mediterranean Synod’ to transform “sea of death” into “welcoming haven”

Spanish-Moroccan cardinal calls for Synod on migration: “The Mediterranean cannot continue to be a frontier of death”

Sarajevo cardinal: “There is still no peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.