Meeting of the Franciscan Family for Mediterranean refugees and migrants

Marrakesh (Morocco), 10th – 12th May

16 May 2024

From the 10th  to 12 Mayth in Marrakesh (Morocco) the first meeting of the Franciscan Family at the service of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean took place, attended by brothers and sisters from Spain, Italy, Turkey, France, Morocco and Greece. Also present were representatives of Franciscans International, the General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization (SGME) and the General Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC).

The meeting began on Friday, the 10th May, with the Eucharist presided over by Br. Daniel Rodríguez Blanco, OFM, Director of the General Office of JPIC. In his homily, he invited those present to have the courage to build a Franciscan network in the Mediterranean that would become a “drop” of fraternity in this immense sea.

Br. Francisco Gómez Vargas, Secretary General for Missions and Evangelization, presented the objective of the meeting, summarized in the desire to get to know each other, exchange work experiences and create a structure capable of articulating a response for the Mediterranean based on Franciscan charism and spirituality.

The Minister General OFM, Br. Massimo Fusarelli, in his message sent to the participants, highlighted the beauty and at the same time the current tragedy in the Mediterranean. He asked the Franciscan Family to join forces so that no one feels alone in their work, but rather part of a fraternity in the "Mare Nostrum" and that this is not, as Pope Francis said, "a cemetery", but a home open to all.

After the words of welcome from the Franciscan Custody of Morocco in the person of Br. Jean de Dieu, a day of reflection was held with a historical look at the Mediterranean introduced by Br. Giuseppe Buffon, followed by eyewitness testimony of some migrants and the exposition of good practices by the Jesuit Foundation Migra Studium of Barcelona, in the person of Margarita García, and Saving Humans in the Mediterranean, represented by Luca Casarini.

On Saturday the 11th May, the Franciscan Family gathered at the friary of the Holy Martyrs of Morocco, in the city of Marrakech. In the Eucharistic celebration over which he presided, Br. Francisco emphasized the contradiction of globalization, which concerns more the economy and not the movement of people. The appeal for the Franciscans is to "globalize love" and make transparent the dream of Jesus, centered on the life and dignity of people as daughters of God.

A poignant moment took place whilst listening to the projects that each of the participants carries out at the local level. The Franciscan Family in the Mediterranean has been working for many years with migrants and refugees in reception centres, health care, soup kitchens, psychological assistance, legal and immigration counseling, counseling centres, vocational training, language schools, areas for personal hygiene and washing clothes.

Blair Matheson, executive director of Franciscans International, explained the programmes they develop in different parts of the world and the advocacy they carry out at the United Nations and in varous Embassies.

The 12th May was marked by the visit of Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero, SDB, bishop of Rabat, who presented very clearly the identity and mission of the Church in Morocco, "sociologically and theologically migrant," because the majority of the thirty thousand Catholics in Morocco are migrants of at least one hundred nationalities. For the cardinal, migration is neither a problem nor a misfortune, but in many places, migrants are not welcomed because they are poor. It is a migrant Church because it seeks to become incarnate and to have a Moroccan face, which desires to build the Kingdom of God based on the values of justice, peace, freedom, life, truth and, most fundamentally, love. 

The Bishop of Rabat also maintained that dialogue is the centre of the mission: the Moroccan experience testifies that "Christians and Muslims can live as brothers and sisters", he stressed, defining the Church of Morocco as "small" perhaps because of the numbers, but authentic, exciting and passionate, thanks to its members.

JPIC Mission & Evangelisation Minister General
Br Massimo Fusarelli Mediterranean Franciscan Network
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