The Pope denounces the living conditions of migrants in the ‘gulag’ during the visit to Cyprus

Pope Francis, in an emotional encounter with migrants, said on Friday that he had a responsibility to tell the harsh truth about the suffering of the refugees, many of them held in conditions he compared to those in the Nazi and Soviet camps.

Francis, who has made the defense of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his pontificate, spoke at the end of his second day in Cyprus, where he met migrants, some of whom will be among the 50 who will be relocated to Italy at the initiative. hers. the next few months.

Starting from a prepared speech, he said that many people kept asking how Nazi concentration camps or Stalinist gulags could have been allowed to exist in the post-war period.

“Brothers and sisters, this is happening today,” he said, citing the conditions of refugees in camps in Libya and elsewhere where they are forcibly returned when they are expelled from Europe.

“They have ended up in concentration camps where women are sold, men are tortured and[people]are enslaved,” he said.

After hearing some of the stories of the migrants, the Pope said: “The worst thing is that we are getting used to it … This indifference is a serious disease for which there are no antibiotics.”

The 84-year-old pontiff said he was sorry to have to talk about such unpleasant things but added: “It is my responsibility to open my eyes.”

‘Wounded by hatred’

Francis was moved to add to his prepared remarks by hearing some of the personal stories of the migrants.

“I am someone wounded by hatred. The hatred once experienced cannot be forgotten,” a migrant, Marcolins from Cameroon, told the Pope at the church where the meeting took place, right on the border that has divided Cyprus into two since 1974.

“There is the hatred that leads a human being to use a weapon not only to shoot another, but to break their bones while others watch,” Marcolins said.

Francis, who leaves for Greece on Saturday, called on Friday for the healing in Cyprus during a mass celebrated in view of a huge Turkish Cypriot flag on the side of a mountain on the other side of the line dividing the Mediterranean island.

He delivered his homily on the theme of shared grief, themes that strike a chord with all Cypriots on an island that has split in two since the 1974 Turkish invasion sparked by a Greek-inspired coup.

“Healing takes place when we carry our pain together, when we face our problems together, when we listen and talk to each other,” Francis said at the mass.

Countless attempts at mediation in Cyprus have failed and the peace process stalled in 2017 when talks collapsed. Tens of thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots remain internally displaced.

The huge Turkish Cypriot flag painted on the mountainside, lit up at night, is a constant reminder of the division.

(REUTERS)

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