Pope Francis arrived in Marseille, France, just after 4 p.m., on Friday, 22 September, to attend the final session of the Rencontres Méditerranéennes, an event dedicated especially to the plight of migrants who are forced to leave their homes because of conflict, poverty or climate change.
It was the Holy Father’s 44th Apostolic Journey, and although it only lasted about 30 hours in total, it was full of profound moments of encounter and prayer. Before leaving Rome, Pope Francis had received a group of about 20 poor women at his residence, Casa Santa Marta. The women are hosted by the Missionary Sisters of Charity at their Casa Dono di Maria, or Gift of Mary House, in the Vatican. The Pope had also sent a telegram to the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella. “As I leave Rome to visit Marseille, 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”, Pope Francis 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”.
Pope Francis received a warm welcome at the international airport in Marseille, where he was greeted by French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne and a group of four children wearing traditional outfits who offered him a bouquet of flowers. After the welcoming ceremony, Pope Francis had a short, private meeting with the Prime Minister.
The Holy Father was then driven to the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, where he presided at a Marian prayer with the diocesan clergy. The prayer was followed by a moment of reflection with religious leaders near the Memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea.
Marseille is the second French city Pope Francis has visited 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.