The Pope... And now the President of the Republic. On September 23, the Phocaean city may be somewhat encumbered by the ballet of official vans. "Emmanuel Macron will be present to meet the sovereign pontiff," said a source close to the organizers. Will the head of state, guarantor of respect for secularism, attend the Mass that Francis will celebrate at the Velodrome stadium or will he prefer to greet the pope in a small committee?
"For the moment, the Elysee has not confirmed," said a close friend of the archbishop of Marseille, Jean-Marc Aveline. While waiting in the Phocaean city, things are becoming clearer. The first major public mass ever celebrated in France by the pontiff will take place at 16:45 p.m., in the legendary stadium between two matches of the Rugby World Cup.
A rest room for the pope
At the initiative of Benoît Payan, the mayor (DVG) of Marseille, a compromise was finally found on the amount of the insurance surcharge claimed by the organizer of the international sports competition to cover possible damage to the lawn. It now remains to refine the organization of the event: an altar adjoining a rest room where the 86-year-old pope who accumulates health glitches, will be able to breathe, will be erected in the enclosure and all the camera equipment equipping the stadium will have to be reorganized: we do not follow the homily of a pope in the same way as the trajectory of an oval ball!
For security reasons, the entrance to the enclosure with a capacity of 60,000 seats will be filtered: "Access will obviously be free but only people with a nominative ticket will be able to attend the celebration, says the diocese of Marseille. For the others, giant screens will be erected everywhere outside, including in the Pharo district. »
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Better that, because the head of the Church has left to make a full stadium: a little less than 3 months before D-Day, nearly 60,000 requests have already reached the diocese to attend this Mass which will be the culmination of this lightning visit. Will Emmanuel Macron take his place in the officials' gallery?
Appearances at measured services
Over the past fifty years, it has been customary for presidents of the Republic to maintain an unostentatious relationship with religion, beyond their personal beliefs. Baptized Catholic at the age of 12 at his request, Emmanuel Macron, without ever having been a practitioner, is nevertheless comfortable with spirituality. The question of "transcendence" comes up regularly in his speeches and he explained that he had, as a teenager, his "mystical" period.
His appearances at services as President of the Republic were always very measured, in accordance with the respect for neutrality observed by his predecessors who, when they were believers, went to Sunday services as a simple parishioner on the occasion of their holidays. For the funeral of Johnny Halliday, we remember the hesitation of Emmanuel Macron when, seizing the goupillon, he had finally rested it, preferring to put both hands flat on the white coffin of the old rocker to pay tribute to him, without lending the flank to criticism.
With the arrival of the pope who arrives on the shores of the Mediterranean as a spiritual leader – and not as head of state of the Vatican – Emmanuel Macron, guarantor of respect for secularism in France, will again have to find the right formula.