I will go to Marseille, not France." Pope Francis has repeatedly insisted that his visit to the Phocaean city on Friday and Saturday, September 22 and 23 is not a state visit. For Francis, who made his first official trip to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the main purpose of this visit is to participate on Saturday 23 September in the closing of the "Mediterranean Meetings", an international symposium on a series of issues, in particular the fate of migrants and climate change.
This visit of just over 24 hours will be punctuated by three other highlights: a time of contemplation in tribute to the sailors and migrants missing at sea, a meeting with Emmanuel Macron and a gigantic mass in the famous Velodrome stadium.
Friday 16:15 pm: welcome at Marignane airport by Elisabeth Borne
The last visit of a pope to Marseille dates back to... nearly five centuries! With the arrival of Clement VII in 1533. Even if it is not, in this case, a state visit, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will be on the tarmac of Marignane airport to welcome the 86-year-old pope. The Vatican website had initially announced that Emmanuel Macron would be present at the descent of the sovereign pontiff from the plane, but the meeting between the two heads of state will finally take place the next day.
17:15 pm: prayer at Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde
Pope Francis will then visit Notre-Dame de la Garde, the high place of the city of Marseille and not only for Christians. Access will be reserved for the diocesan clergy, that is, the priests, men and women religious, of Marseille, who will join the Holy Father's prayer to the Virgin Mary. Francis will take the time to greet them, as he likes to do on every trip during meetings with the clergy.
Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde watches over the Phocaean city. altitudedrone / stock.adobe.com
18 p.m.: Meditation at the memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants missing at sea
A Camargue cross. A large anchor facing the sea. All set on a spur in the shape of a boat bow, in the shadow of the Bonne Mère and above the Old Port. The Holy Father will pay his respects in front of this simple and sober stele, erected in 2008 in memory of two young Marseillais who disappeared at sea a few years apart, Sébastien Rigal and François-Xavier Maurel. In 2010, a plaque was added in memory of "the victims of illegal immigration", after the rescue of shipwrecked people in September and October 2009 by the French ship Biladi.
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There, the pontiff is expected to speak in the presence of several religious representatives and a number of associations, invited for the occasion.
Pope Francis will then spend the night in the bishopric.
Saturday 8:45 am: private interview with "fragile" and "precarious" people»
The next day, Saturday, September 23, the Holy Father will begin his day at the Archdiocese with a private meeting with people "in situations of fragility" or "economic precariousness."
10 a.m.: concluding session of the Mediterranean Meetings
Francis will then go to the Palais du Pharo, for the closing of the Mediterranean Meetings organized this year in Marseille. This international colloquium brings together bishops and personalities from all over the Mediterranean basin, with the aim of creating links between the shores of this sea to facilitate the resolution of a number of issues, first and foremost immigration, dear to the Bishop of Rome. Francis will deliver a speech.
11:30 am: meeting with Emmanuel Macron at the Pharo Palace
Afterwards, still at the Pharo Palace, Pope Francis will meet with the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron. A formal meeting, with official photo, exchange of gifts and interview.
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This was not foreseen in the first version of the program since this papal visit does not have the value of a state visit. But the Élysée has lobbied for this meeting with Emmanuel Macron to take place, as well as his media support.
Pope Francis exchanges gifts with French President Emmanuel Macron during a private audience at the Vatican, October 24, 2022. -/AFP
12:30 pm: Lunch
The 86-year-old pontiff will take a short nap after lunch.
15:30 pm: stroll on the Prado by popemobile
The sovereign pontiff will go to the Avenue du Prado by popemobile "to meet the Marseillaises and Marseillais", announced the diocese of Marseille and the city a few days ago. "The Pope will go up the Avenue du Prado from the Promenade Georges-Pompidou before reaching the Orange Velodrome stadium. He will meet the Marseillaises and Marseillais who will be able to position themselves on his route, throughout the Prado 2 zone, "said their statement.
16:45 pm: mass at the Velodrome stadium
Francis will celebrate a mass in the mythical Velodrome stadium, which can accommodate more than 67,000 people. Emmanuel Macron announced that he would attend this religious celebration, as head of state, which earned him many criticisms, especially on the left of the political scale. The seats having been quickly stormed, giant screens will be installed outside for the Marseillais who would not have been able to have access to the stadium.
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Again, the Mass was not planned in the first version of the program. It was Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, archbishop of Marseille, who managed to persuade Francis. This is the first Mass celebrated on French soil by the Argentine pope since the beginning of his pontificate ten years ago.
19:15 pm: departure for Rome from Marignane airport
At the end of the celebration, Pope Francis will fly back to Rome from Marignane airport. Takeoff is scheduled for 19:15 p.m.
5000,<> police and gendarmes and a thousand private security agents will be mobilized in the Phocaean city during these two days of visit, according to the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin who stressed, however, that "no particular threat is to be reported".
This is the first time that the Supreme Pontiff returns to France, after a day in Strasbourg in November 2014 devoted to the European institutions. Again, this was not a state visit. Since his election in 2013, Jorge Bergoglio has made 42 trips abroad.