Pope Francis departs Rome for Marseille  (Vatican Media)

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Sep 23 2023

Pope Francis leaves Rome to make a two-day visit to the southern French city of Marseille to close the “Mediterranean Meetings”, which has gathered bishops and young people to reflect on migration.

Pope Francis left Rome to travel to Marseille, France, for the conclusion of the “Mediterranean Meetings” (Rencontres Méditerranéennes), marking his 44th Apostolic Journey, on Friday afternoon. The ITA Airway’s flight took off from the Italian capital at 2:45 pm local time.

Pope Francis is making the two-day visit to the southern French city on Friday and Saturday to close the Meetings, which is gathering bishops and young people from across the Mediterranean on 17-24 September, to reflect on migration.

Earlier this week, the Holy Father had praised the upcoming Visit as an opportunity to promote fraternity, through the Meetings, which will gather representatives from the region.

Closeness to the poor, and to the Italian people

Before heading to Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport, the Holy Father met with about 20 poor women hosted by the Missionary Sisters of Charity’s Vatican-housed Casa Dono di Maria, or Gift of Mary House, at his residence Casa Santa Marta. Some of the Missionaries of Charity from the facility were also present.

Upon his departure, the Holy Father sent a telegram to the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, saying he extended his Apostolic Blessing upon the Italian people.

“As I leave Rome to visit Marseilles, where I will take part in a meeting of Mediterranean Churches and cities to reflect on the challenges of welcome, integration and fraternity, so as to foster intercultural dialogue and promote paths of peace,” the Holy Father wrote, “it is my pleasure to extend to you, Mr. President, my respectful greetings, which I accompany with fervent wishes for the spiritual and social well-being of the Italian people, to whom I gladly send my Blessing.”

44th Apostolic Journey

The 22-23 September marks the Pope’s latest Journey abroad, after having made an Apostolic Visit to Mongolia earlier this month, and Portugal, in August, for the World Youth Day.

According to the schedule released by the Holy See Press Office in July, Pope Francis arrives in Marseille International Airport at 4:15 pm.

At 5:15 pm, he will preside over a Marian prayer with the diocesan clergy in the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, followed by a moment of reflection with religious leaders near the Memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea.

Programme

Pope Francis will start Saturday at 8:45 am with a private meeting with people experiencing economic hardship at the Archbishop’s residence.

He will address the final session of the “Rencontres Méditerranéennes” at the Palais du Pharo, where he will also meet with President Emmanuel Macron.

In the afternoon, the Pope is scheduled to preside over Holy Mass at the Vélodrome Stadium before departing from Marseille’s International Airport to Rome, where he is scheduled to arrive at 8:50 pm.

Facing challenge of migration phenomenon together

Recalling this Journey at his Sunday Angelus, the Pope called the Meetings “a beautiful initiative,” noting it “winds its way through important Mediterranean cities, bringing together ecclesial and civil leaders to promote paths of peace, collaboration and integration around the mare nostrum, with special attention to the phenomenon of migration.”

“It represents,” the Holy Father highlighted, “a challenge that is not easy, as we see also from the chronicles of these days, but which must be faced together.”

This, he insisted, is “essential for the future of all,” which “will only be prosperous if it is built on fraternity, putting human dignity and concrete people first, especially the most needy.”

Marseille is the second French city visited by Pope Francis during his pontificate.  On 25 November 2014, he made a day trip to Strasbourg, in northeastern France, to address the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. – Vatican News