Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille 

By Fr Paul Samasumo – Marseille

Sep 23 2023

As Pope Francis prepares to depart for the southern French city, our correspondent in Marseille highlights the expectations, and logistical difficulties, for his two-day visit.

This weekend, Pope Francis is making a two-day Apostolic Visit to the southern French city of Marseille.

The Holy Father will be in the city on Friday and Saturday for the concluding session of the Mediterranean Meetings.

These are Church-led initiatives or conferences held annually in a different city or town in Mediterranean countries.

This year in Marseilles, the Mediterranean Meetings have brought together about 70 Catholic Bishops and 120 young people, aged 20 to 35, from all over the Mediterranean. There are also several Muslims and participants of other faiths.

For the Holy Father, the visit offers an occasion to promote fraternity throughout the Mediterranean.

The visit will encourage religious leaders to forge their own unique course in their desire to serve the people of an area so dear to Pope Francis.

Logistical hurdles

Regarding logistics, Pope Francis is arriving in the middle of the Rugby World Cup 2023 in Marseille. It is an intense week for the city, bustling with excitement.

Our Vatican News team covering the papal visit faced challenges getting a taxi. We wondered how the Rugby games and the Pope’s visit would play out.

Eventually, when we found a taxi, and we asked our driver what he thought of Pope Francis coming to the city. His reply was very instructive.

“We all believe in one God,” he said. “Anyone who believes in God and works for peace in the Mediterranean, I want to listen to them. I am interested in this visit,” was his reply.

Diversity on display in Marseille

For Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, the Archbishop of Marseille, one of the major highlights will be the Mass which Pope Francis will celebrate at the Orange Vélodrome stadium.

The Mass is scheduled for Saturday afternoon before the Pope returns to the Vatican. Over 50,000 people are expected to attend.

This Mass, said Cardinal Aveline, will “bring together Marseille in all its diversity.”

French President Emmanuel Macron is also expected to attend the Mass.

The last time a Pope visited Marseille was in 1533 when Clement VII of Florence visited the city to celebrate a marriage.

Five centuries later, Pope Francis’ weekend visit is already making history. – Vatican News