Archbishop in Morocco asks not to forget the other side of migration

Santiago Agrelo was archbishop in Tangier between 2007 and 2019 and knows very well the situation of migrants who are desperately trying to find a better future. 

When Francisco traveled to Morocco, he explained it to him personally. 

“They, who are the most vulnerable, bear the marks of Christ on their bodies.”

Although he lives in retirement in Santiago de Compostela, he is still moved when he remembers the episodes he lived in Tangier. Like when at the end of mass a group of young people approached him to ask for his blessing. 

Archbishop Emeritus of Tangier
“You know that they are asking you for something to go to the sea the next day or that night and try to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. So, you, who bless them, you, who have not said anything, because they have not told you where they are going or how they are going well … what do you do? You bless them. And … I remember one of the parish priests who told me: ‘You have the feeling that the last anointing is being given to you.’ This is how things work ”.

The church in Tangier cared for many in need. Those who suffered the worst were those who came from outside Morocco. Some lived hidden in the woods despite the cold winter. Santiago Agrelo went there to give them food and confesses that he returned completely dejected.

Archbishop emeritus of Tangier
“For the bishop to return home and get into his normal bed, in a room it becomes a hurtful memory. In a memory … you can no longer be at home as if you had not left your children in the mountains. There they stay. And that is the situation every day. It is not a week in which there is an extraordinary event in Ceuta. No. It is the situation of every day ”.

We ask him what he thinks if the Pope visited the border between Spain and Morocco as he did in other similar places such as El Paso or Lampedusa. 

He says it would be a beautiful event, although he admits that he cannot say what political scope it would have.

Archbishop emeritus of Tangier
” He has a serene, deep, lucid, clairvoyant word, and he goes where he has to go. I mean: he reaches the hearts of simple people.”

“I am not able to see what is behind politics so that certain things are ignored and others are highlighted. I am not capable. So, I refrain from thinking: and you continue with your little struggle to change social consciousness.”

That is why he insistently asks that migrants not be criminalized and that the other side of migration be also remembered, the one that he was able to touch with his hands: the face of fear, poverty and loneliness, more than anything to heal himself. , needs affection.

Javier Romero/

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