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Pope fights foot pain in Malta, protects migrants According to Reuters

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© Reuters. Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the granaries in Floriana, Malta, April 3, 2022. REUTERS / Remo Casilli

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By Philip Pullella

VALLETTA (Reuters) – Pope Francis, struggling with leg pain, said on Sunday that nations should always help those trying to survive “among the waves of the sea” as he concludes a trip to Malta , at the heart of Europe ‘s migration debate .

At the beginning of the last day of his trip to the Mediterranean island, Pope Francis visited the cave in the town of Rabat. According to tradition, Saint Paul lived there for two months after he was among 75 shipwrecks en route to Rome in AD 60. The Bible says they received unusual kindness.

“No one knows their name, their place of birth or their social status; they know only one thing: those who need help,” the pope said during a vigil in the cave.

The 85-year-old pope is suffering from flare-ups of leg pain and difficulty walking in the small cave. During the Mass for about 20,000 people that followed, he sat mostly while Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Valletta presided over most of the liturgy.

Francis had to use an elevator to board his flight in Rome and get off when he arrived in Valletta on Saturday, and at the end of Sunday Mass he skipped the traditional procession with all the bishops.

Malta is one of the more important routes used by migrants from Libya to Europe.

“Help us to recognize from afar those who are in difficulty, struggling in the midst of the waves, crashing into the coral reefs of unknown shores,” the pope said in prayer at the cave. motion.

Prime Minister Robert Abela’s government insists that the island, by far Europe’s most populous country, is “flooded”, refusing to allow migrants other than those to be rescued. your rescue area.

Pope Francis’ final stop was a visit to a center for migrants, known as the “peace lab”. Here he heard Daniel, a Nigerian, tell about several attempts to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats and how he was detained in Libya, Tunisia and Malta.

“Sometimes I cried! Sometimes I wish I died… why do men like us treat us like criminals and not like brothers?” Daniel said.

Pope Francis told them that the humanitarian crisis over migration is “a shipwreck of civilization that threatens not only the migrants but all of us”. Mistreatment of migrants sometimes happens “with the complicity of the authorities”, he said.

On Friday, the German NGO Sea Eye IV was outside Maltese territorial waters trying to bring 106 migrants rescued from Libyan waters but was denied entry.

Human rights groups have criticized the island for its involvement in “backtracks” where migrants rescued in coordination with Malta were brought back to Libya. The organizations argue that this violates international law because Libya is not a safe country.

Addressing Maltese government officials on Saturday, Francis denounced “dirty deals with criminals who enslave others”. Previously, he compared conditions in migrant detention centers in Libya to those of Nazi and Soviet camps.

Malta believes that Europe should have an effective “burden sharing” mechanism. Pope Francis has also repeatedly called for the sharing of responsibility for migrants between European countries.

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