On 2 April 2022, Pope Francis stepped foot in Malta for a two-day visit, his 36th
Apostolic Journey. While there, he spoke powerfully about the important need to welcome migrants and refugees, especially in light of the Via Crucis (the way of the Cross) they have to walk.
On the flight back to Rome, he fielded questions from journalists about his trip and the war in Ukraine. Here are some key takeaways:
Malta, along with Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Italy, are the countries closest to Africa and the Middle East, where the majority of refugees are coming from. This puts a significant burden on them, since a country must determine for itself how many migrants it can receive to ‘live worthily’. What this means is that Europe must not ‘leave all the burden of these neighbouring countries.’ They must not be ‘left alone.’ Hearing the stories of so many migrants, Francis said: ‘I felt their suffering.’
Asked about whether or not he would visit Ukraine, Pope Francis said that such a trip was definitely on the table. Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Gallagher, who work the diplomatic side of things, are ‘pushing the boundaries’ of their work.
Whether or not it would actually happen, or if it is fitting, ‘is still up in the air.’
‘We are stubborn,’ he said. ‘We are in love with wars, with the spirit of Cain.’
There is a reason the Bible opens with such a brutal depiction of human violence in Genesis 4: it is to stand in stark contrast with the depiction of paradise and peace. Every war, the pontiff says, ‘stems from an injustice’ and then continues in the cycle of ‘making investments to buy weapons’.
‘We are not used to thinking of the pattern of peace anymore,’ he said.
Pope Francis also grieved the way in which war steals our youth. He recalled a commemoration for the Normandy landings, at which he heard not a single word about the 30,000 young men whose bodies were left on the beaches.
Youth does not matter. That makes me wonder. I am grieved. We never learn. May the Lord have mercy on us, on all of us. Every one of us is guilty!'
Pope Francis has spoken out against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms, even referring to the war as 'sacrilegious'. Asked a couple of times what he would say to Russian President Vladimir Putin personally, the Pope said:
The messages I have given to all the authorities are the ones I have done publicly. I do not do double-speak. I always speak the same.
When asked about his health, the pontiff admitted that it is ‘a bit fickle’. A problem with his knee has meant that, until last week, he couldn’t walk properly. ‘It’s a slow thing this winter,’ he said. ‘At this age, you don’t know how the match will end. Let’s hope it goes well.’
Melbourne Catholic20 September 2023
Christian Bergmann20 September 2023