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Pope Francis and the “geopolitics of migration”

by Carlo Marroni

In two weeks, the Pope will embark on his most important trip yet. Francis will go to Cuba and subsequently to the US.

It will be an event-packed week, bearing a huge significance -- greater than any geopolitical strategy carried out through the traditional tools of diplomacy.

Peace between Cuba and the United States, formalized with the recent reopening of the respective embassies, was accomplished through the mediation of Bergoglio's Vatican, and is a tangible achievement that seemed impossible just three years ago.

This is the reason why Francis's actions on the international stage are closely monitored by governments and media, similar to the way they were during John Paul II's papacy.

A few days ago, the Pope met Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and told him that it is now again the time to “promote a climate of trust between Israelis and Palestinians and resume direct negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement.”

The Vatican reiterated the goal of creating two states, according to the stance pursued by the papal diplomacy.

However, in Israel-Palestine, or the Holy Land according to the Catholic Church, politics is indissolubly linked to religion.

“The talks addressed the political and social situation in the Middle East, marked by several conflicts, with particular attention to the situation of Christians and other minority groups. In this regard, it was agreed on the importance of interreligious dialogue and on the responsibility of religious leaders in promoting reconciliation and peace,” it said.

These official words point to great concerns over the upsurge of Jewish extremism, that also carried out attacks against Christian targets.

Even though he is a member of the right wing of Likud (Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's party), as president of Israel Rivlin has been very outspoken in recent weeks following the killing of a Palestinian boy.

For the Catholic Church, the Middle East is a complex context, squeezed between the advance of Isis slaughtering Christians in Iraq and Syria, and the outright discriminatory thrusts in only apparently moderate Islamic countries, forcing a large part of the population to flee.

These are the issues that the Pope will address before the UN, centering each of his speeches - including the one scheduled at the US Congress in Washington - on the issue of migration, a historic phenomenon that no longer is an emergency, but an evolving process.

Francis's geopolitical approach is therefore no longer inspired by a balance of powers, but by an attention to migration flows, in Europe and in Asia, Africa and Latin America alike.

The Pope spoke extensively about this in his Laudato sii (May You be praised) encyclical, through which he developed the Franciscan doctrine and almost elevated it to a teaching, by exposing the “globalization of indifference,” as he said in Lampedusa in July 2013, facing the sea where hundreds of migrants died (and still perish).