"A little bit of Paradise is a hand that saves, it is helping however we can". The homily of Card. Matteo Zuppi at the prayer vigil Dying of Hope

Homily by Card. Matteo Zuppi on the occasion of the Prayer Vigil "Dying of Hope" in memory of the many who died trying to reach Europe

Mk 4: 35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, "Let us cross to the other side." Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"

Let us remember and pray. And how much prayer helps us, when we entrust our little brothers and sisters to the Lord! They are all little and poor Christs!
Could we possibly forget? The Church is a mother, only a mother. Someone looks for all sorts of explanations, but this is the only one, the simplest, the truest, the one that describes - with all the poverty and human contradictions - our Mother, whom we love and who loves. And today I believe she is rejoicing, because her children are gathered together to pray!
This mother, who Jesus entrusted to all of us, demands to be loved, understood, supported, defended, made better with our love. A mother needs no declarations or explanations, only love, as she gives everything she has out of love. A mother never forgets her children, none of them. She embraces the weakness of our lives, fragile and beautiful, with infinite dignity, always and for all.
She cries, she struggles, she mourns for her children who have gone, and she wants no one to be lost any longer. Her children are not mere statistics, surveys, auditions. Her 2,554 children, people who have become refugees, who in a year - from June 2023 to today - have lost their lives in the Mediterranean and along the land routes, desperately trying to reach Europe in search of a better future. A better future for them, but our future as well, if we want it to be better.
This mother never forgets them, she is persistent, tenacious, she presses those who judge and even interpret the pain, yet they never listen and are never hurt or changed. And what insolence! Those who have lost a child know this.
The Church is free to say they were left alone, we did not take care of them. We have squandered resources, even profited from their pain, and betrayed expectations and commitments. The Church is a mother free to claim that her tears are just tears, they are not for a part, but for those who love the part, the only one for a mother who truly puts the human person at the centre, the ultimate dignity of a person, unique and special, like every child for a mother. A mother therefore does not accept useless explanations and justifications, because she only fears losing one of her youngest children, hers and ours.
As we look at her and their suffering, may we all rediscover a sense of humanity and dignity, so as not to lose it in painful narcissism or vulgar and crude ignorance.  If we lose their dignity, we actually lose our dignity. A mother is free to repeat that lawlessness can be overcome only with lawfulness.
Let us remember, so that we never get used to people dying in the anguish of the vast sea, in the cold of the night, in the breathtaking heat of the desert, from thirst, humiliated in the body by marauders and slavers. Rights are always rights. However, they remind us, as Pope Francis says in ''Fratelli tutti'', that "a part sees its own dignity denied, scorned or trampled upon, and its fundamental rights discarded or violated”. If it is so for some, it is dangerous for all.
Woe to make rights useless references, betraying commitments and responsibilities. The right to asylum, in Europe and in Italy, often continues to sail insecurely on traffickers' boats, instead of being protected by a European operation of rescue at sea and intelligent management of a phenomenon that is certainly not transitory, that has always been and whose proportions require farsightedness, determination.
If the Mediterranean belongs to no one, it denies itself and that law of the sea that has always defined it. Let us hope that there will be a different attention and solidarity among individual countries and from a truly united Europe, starting with the new European Parliament. It is crucial not to be divided on these purely and simply humanitarian issues. Just the other day, 66 people went missing, and among them 26 children. Many of them were Afghan families, and even this should provoke such a reaction.
We will remember names and places, because each one is a piece of the unique image of God, of that extraordinary mosaic that, when reassembled in love, allows us to understand the beauty of God and the beauty of each person. We do not want to drown our humanity and we want to locate each one in the immensity of abandonment.
Estimates indicate at least 8,565 people died in journeys of hope in 2023. This is the highest ever figure since 2016. There are 1,886 who lost their lives in the Sahara desert, those who are known, and on the sea route to the Canaries. They were fleeing from hell and life became hell. Will we endure in hell?
I am reading from today's newspaper: '10 years old and already heartbroken. She no longer has her mother, her father, her little sister by her side and she is desperate. She only asks about them, she does not know that they have fallen into the water and had to surrender to the overwhelming power of the sea, three of the many bodies lost forever in the Mediterranean. Those who watched her disembark say the eyes of the little girl who arrived in Roccella Ionica yesterday morning were no longer shining, they seemed dull. A moment's pause from crying, just one, then tears again. Tears of loneliness, but also of physical suffering, because she was so dehydrated that she was suffering unbearable pains in her arms, symptoms that had convinced the doctors at the start that they had been broken.
We will make it, was the mantra of those families, many of whom came from places were human rights are at an end, like Afghanistan or Iran. But then the sea became rough, there was an explosion on the boat, it began to take on water and hope gradually sank, along with the lives of the poor people who drowned in the sea.
The commander of the Roccella Coast Guard endured 24 hours of non-stop work to follow the operations of his men. He says that "the shipwrecked people were all particularly exhausted this time", that "while you are intervening, you are trained to maintain lucidity and professionalism, but then, when you get home at night, you take with you the humanity you had to deal with, like the image of that little girl, so small and already so alone and desperate. In paediatrics ward - sorry if I keep reading, because it's actually Good Friday - we were allowed to stay with her for a long time. The nurses cuddle her, they treat her like a queen, but she doesn't want toys or to play. She whines and screams because she wants her mum and little sister. Concetta, from the Red Cross, sighs then says: 'I talked to my husband a little while ago, when she is well we would like to take her in, waiting for her future to be decided'. "
A ray of sunshine in the midst of the dark sky of this shipwreck. Here is Good Friday, which we remember today, but also here is the humanity we want, which begins to show the light of resurrection. A mother, indeed. A piece of Paradise to take with us. It is like that image, which is a dream and which is actually our prayer, whereby a boy lifts up a woman who has fallen in the desert and makes her fly, carrying her with one finger, that of love.
A little bit of Paradise is a hand that saves, it is helping however we can. Never let a piece of Paradise go missing. Even a mother from Roccella can do it, everyone can do it.
Finally, let us remember Ukraine, with just under 6 million refugees in European countries, with 4 million internal displaced persons. Sudan, the Palestinians of Gaza, 1.7 million internally displaced who had to flee repeatedly. They have lost everything. Syria, still the world's largest refugee crisis. Afghanistan.
Here, a mother. And a mother never gives up, finds answers and helps find them. Humanitarian corridors, work corridors, finally a non-emergency management, training and guaranteeing rights and duties, both must be guaranteed, are the answers of a mother, who has hope, never loses it, makes people live not die, and when she gives hope she finds hope. Because no one can die of hope. It means that hope has died in us if we let this happen.
Jesus also seeks the other shore, he sets out on a journey. We are all travellers, pilgrims in this life of ours, never able to stay where we are, because we must always seek the other shore. Jesus seems to be asleep, but those who are actually asleep are the disciples, agitated and forgetful because they have no faith or are merely asleep on themselves, since the storm does not affect them.
We often wonder where God is, how it is possible that children die, a scandal for which their angels are in the presence of God. Actually the question is where man is! Because we know where God is, on the boat with them. And Jesus teaches us to always defend, for everyone, everywhere, the inviolable and infinite dignity of the human being. Always, in all ages, for everyone.
Finally, John Chrysostom spoke like this: "This is how those who cross the great and spacious sea act. If their ship is driven by favourable winds they rejoice in such peace, but if they see from afar another vessel in distress, they do not overlook the misfortune of those strangers, looking out only for their own gain.They stop the ship, drop anchors, lower the sails, cast planks, throw ropes so that those about to be submerged by the waves, clinging to one of them may escape shipwreck."
John Chrysostom continued: 'Imitate therefore also the mariners, O man. You too sail a great and spacious sea, the extent of present life: a sea full of animals and pirates, full of rocks and peaks, a sea shaken by many storms and tempests. And indeed in this sea too many often make shipwreck. When therefore you see a seafarer, who by some devilish accident is about to lose the treasure of his salvation, is agitated in the waves about to submerge, stop your ship. Even if you hurry elsewhere, worry about his salvation, neglect your own things. He who is about to drown cannot admit of delay or slowness - it is John Chrysostom again - Therefore rush in quickly, snatch him immediately from the waves, set everything in motion to pull him up from the depths of ruin. Even if a thousand occupations urge you on, none seems more necessary to you than the salvation of a wretch, if you were to delay it, even a little the violent storm would lose him. Much readiness, much readiness and much solicitous care is necessary in these misfortunes. Let us therefore be full of solicitous care for our brothers."
And he concluded: "Sincere love is shown, not by eating together, not by talking nicely, not by praising one another with words, but by observing and caring for what is useful to our neighbour. By standing by those who have fallen, by reaching out to those who are at loss for their salvation, and by seeking the good of your neighbour more than your own. Love does not look at its own interests, but before looking at its own it looks at its neighbour's, to see through those its own."
Let it be so, for us and for them, their hope, our hope.