On Saturday morning, 23 September, Pope Francis paid a visit to the House of the Missionaries of Charity in Saint Mauront, located in the third arrondissement of Marseille. Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, the Archbishop of Marseille, told the Pope that it is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in France. The Pope was welcomed by a cheerful group of about 10 religious sisters who sang the Alleluia, hugged him and placed a white and blue wreath (Mother Teresa’s colours) around his neck. A crowd of about 60 people joined the sisters and welcomed the Holy Father with an enthusiastic round of applause. Those present were beneficiaries of the house, people in different situations of hardship and whom Pope Francis wanted to meet.
“I like to see people help each other: a gesture of fraternity”, the Pope said, adding, “We are all brothers and sisters: this is important”. And “that is what the sisters aim to do here: make it so that everyone lives as brothers and sisters. Many times our societies lead us to live as enemies or strangers. The prophetic gesture is to live as brothers and sisters: this is a prophecy!”. He concluded by expressing his gratitude to the religious sisters for their work: “Thank you for your witness, I am happy to be here!”.
Speaking to “L’Osservatore Romano”, Sister Crosvita, an Italian woman from Brindisi who has been in Marseille for two years, explained that the sisters “run a soup kitchen for the poor: we have space for 50 people at a time”, she said, “we repeat the service 3-4 times a day, from 9:30 to 11:30. We welcome and serve lunch”, also with the help of volunteers from schools, parishes and associations. Some of the guests “live on the street”. Sister Crosvita shared that among the migrants is a group of people from Sudan who “still do not have a place to go, but there are also other poor people”, she said. “French people who perhaps have a place to stay but don’t have the means to eat, and so they come here starting early in the morning”. They are people of all ages, explains the missionary: “We welcome them, but we don’t ask questions”. Sometimes, they open up on their own and share the anxiety they feel because they don’t know if they’ll make it, the sister says, visibly overcome with emotion. We ask her why she and her fellow sisters are so joyfully committed to their mission among the least. The reason, she says, is “to see Christ in the other, in any person who approaches, in any person we meet”, because she says, that person “is Christ”.