“It will be the first time a Pope has visited Marseille in modern times”, Matteo Bruni, Director of the Vatican Press Office, said today at the Vatican Press Room briefing on Pope Francis’ 44th international apostolic journey. Next Friday and Saturday, September 22-23, the Pope will visit France for the second time. After Strasbourg, where Bergoglio addressed the European Parliament and Council on July 25, 2014, the Holy Father will thus visit a second French city for an international event.
Marseille, the largest city in the South of France, whose rich history has seen the presence of Romans, Ligurians, Arabs and Saracens at various times, is today characterised by a multifaceted identity that continues to enrich French history thanks to immigration, including as a result of de-colonisation.
It has always been a hospitable city, as tradition has it that it welcomed Martha, Mary and Lazarus, the friends of Jesus. With its ancient commercial port, it is a fundamental naval base in the Mediterranean: this is evidenced by the age-old presence of Notre Dame de la Gard (Our Lady of the Guard), the Bonne Mére, to which sailors and seafarers have traditionally referred, and still do, as well as missionaries who set out for distant lands. Port, faith and sea:
“The Mediterranean as a sea that unites and does not divide, a place where different religions and peoples meet.”
These are the reasons why the Archdiocese of Marseilles was chosen to host the Rencontres Méditerranéennes, as Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline explained a few days ago. The way was paved in 2020 in Bari and in 2022 in Florence with the “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace” meetings, launched on the initiative of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and inspired by the colloquia organised by Giorgio La Pira in Florence from 1958 to 1974. The indirect reference, the Vatican spokesman recalled, is to the previous meeting in Bari, called for by the Pope in July 2018, at one of the most critical moments of the war in Syria. It was a day of dialogue with representatives from the whole region: “already at that time, the theme of war, migration and closeness between the Churches of all the Mediterranean countries was discussed”, with a particular emphasis on ecumenical dialogue and human fraternity. These themes will also be on the agenda in Marseille, Bruni said, in anticipation of the Pope’s “two-day visit.”
One of the novelties of these days in Marseille, before the arrival of Francis, is the participation of young people, in the same number as the bishops:
They are “the protagonists of the future, the decision-makers of tomorrow and of the day after tomorrow”, said Cardinal Aveline. Alongside the two days of meetings between the bishops and the young people – which begin tomorrow and continue on Thursday – a special event has been organised in Marseille, with exhibitions, concerts, personal testimonies and prayer vigils.
The themes of the journey. Climate issues and the lives of migrants. These are among the anticipated themes of the Pope’s journey, as suggested by the word “shores”, which characterises the Mediterranean. “The Mediterranean is a focal point where the recent issue of climate change and the tensions it has caused are strongly felt,” said Bruni. The meetings in Marseille will involve “different but close worlds, united by the same sea and united in this closeness.”
Migrants’ lives at the heart of the journey, “people forced to leave their homes and families in search of a future, any future”, crossing the Mediterranean, which has become the world’s biggest cemetery. Not to mention the horrors of the land routes denounced by Francis in Lampedusa and Lesbos and recalled in the Angelus prayer last Sunday.
For the Vatican spokesman, it is “likely” that in the four speeches Francis will deliver in Marseille, “his thoughts will turn to the many saints who have crossed France and who, from here, have a special resonance for the rest of Europe.” In this respect, Marseille can play “a special role in France and in the Mediterranean.”
Finally, the war in Ukraine and in the world in general will remain in the background of the journey “because of the suffering it causes the Holy Father and the painful consequences for the peoples of the Mediterranean.”
The programme. The Pope will depart from Fiumicino airport on September 22 at 14:35, due to land in Marseille at 16:15, the time of the official welcome. Francis will be received by the French Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, with whom he will have a short meeting. At 16.45 the Pope will leave for the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, with arrival at 17.15 for the Marian prayer with the diocesan clergy in an emblematic site of the city, located south of the Old Port on a limestone promontory built in the second half of the 19th century by the bishop of the time on the highest part of Marseille. Francis will be welcomed in the upper part of the Basilica by Cardinal Aveline, together with the Rector, and will cross the nave towards the altar, where he will pray in silence before the statue of the Blessed Virgin, light a candle and deliver a message of salutation. At 17.45 he will proceed to the Monument to Seafarers and Migrants who have died at Sea. Here, at 18.00, there will be a moment of remembrance with the religious leaders, followed by the Pope’s address, after which he will lay a wreath before the Monument. After greeting the religious leaders, the Pope will return to the Archbishop’s residence at 19.00. The morning of the 23rd will begin with a private meeting with people experiencing economic hardship: “The venue is not yet confirmed, it was scheduled to take place at the Archbishop’s residence, but it will probably be moved to the Sisters of Mother Teresa,” Bruni announced.
Francis will then proceed to the Palais du Pharo, where he will address the closing session of the Rencontres Méditerranéenns at 10am in the presence of around 900 people, including French bishops and bishops of Mediterranean countries, young people and political authorities. The Pope will be welcomed by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macon, and his wife, Brigitte,
whom he will meet at 11.15. At 12 noon he will return to the Archbishop’s residence. In the afternoon, at 15.15, the Pope will leave by car, first closed and then open, for the Velodrome Stadium, where Holy Mass will be celebrated at 16.15pm – in French, with a homily in Italian. At 17.15pm, the Pope will be transferred to the airport, where the farewell ceremony with the President of the Republic will take place at 18.45pm. The return flight from Marseilles is scheduled to depart at 19.15, arriving at Rome Fiumicino Airport at 20.50.
(Fonte: AgenSIR – News archiviata in #TeleradioNews ♥ il tuo sito web © Diritti riservati all’autore)