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Europe needs hope, Pope Francis says

Pope Francis smiles during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 27, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2023 / 06:52 am (CNA).

To deal properly with the crises it faces, Europe must first have hope, Pope Francis said Wednesday at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“Hope needs to be restored to our European societies,” the pope said Sept. 27, “especially to the new generations.”

“Our societies, many times sickened by individualism, by consumerism and by empty escapism, need to open themselves, their souls and spirits need to be oxygenized, and then they will be able to read the crisis as an opportunity and deal with it positively,” he continued.

During his Wednesday audience with the public, Pope Francis spoke about his Sept. 22-23 visit to Marseille, France, to participate in the “Rencontres Méditerranéennes,” or Mediterranean Encounter, a meeting of bishops, mayors, and young people to confront issues facing the Mediterranean region, including immigration.

The pope spoke at the meeting on its second-to-last day Sept. 23.

Pope Francis reaches to bless a young child during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 27, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“What came out of the Marseille event? What came out is an outlook on the Mediterranean that I would call simply human, not ideological, not strategic, not politically correct nor instrumental; no, human, that is, capable of referring everything to the primary value of the human person and his or her inviolable dignity,” he said.

He also noticed, he added, that there was a hopeful and fraternal outlook, even, surprisingly, from those who “have lived through inhuman situations.”

“This hope, this fraternity must not ‘evaporate;’ no, rather, it needs to be organized, concretized through long, medium and short-term actions so that people, in complete dignity, can choose to emigrate or not to emigrate,” he urged.

“In fact, how can we welcome others if we ourselves do not first have a horizon open to the future?” Francis said. “How can young people, who are poor in hope, closed in on their private lives, worried about managing their own precariousness, open themselves to meeting others and to sharing?”

Pope Francis said he saw a lot of passion and enthusiasm during his visit to Marseille, a port city in southern France, including at the Mass he celebrated on Sept. 23.

He encouraged the continent of Europe to also cultivate this passion and enthusiasm so that the Mediterranean region can be “a mosaic of civilization and hope,” rather than “a tomb” or a “place of conflict.”

“The Mediterranean Sea,” the pope said, “is the complete opposite of the clash between civilizations, war, human trafficking.”

Pope Francis addresses a crowd of people in St. Peter’s Square during his weekly general audience on Sept. 27, 2023. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Francis said the Mediterranean Sea is a channel of communication between Africa, Asia, and Europe, and though “the sea is always an abyss to overcome in some way, and it can even become dangerous,” still, “its waters safeguard treasures of life; its waves and its winds carry vessels of all types.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ even departed from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, he noted.

At the end of his audience, Pope Francis recalled that on Sept. 27, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, a French Catholic priest who co-founded the Congregation of the Mission, or the Vincentians.

“Today’s liturgical memorial of St. Vincent de Paul reminds us of the centrality of love of neighbor,” the pope said. “I urge everyone to cultivate the attitude of caring for others and openness to those who need you.”

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