Welcomed as a rock star, Pope Francis concluded Saturday with a giant mass at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille a visit to the second city of France largely dominated by the denunciation of the fate reserved for migrants.
Hello Marseille, hello La France," the pope told nearly 60,000 faithful, in the presence of President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, amid an "extraordinary" security device.
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Under a bright sun, the head of the Catholic Church was acclaimed by making in "popemobile" the tour of the lawn of the den of OM, emblematic football club of the city, greeted by "tifos" (messages drawn by the crowd), and in particular a huge "Thank you". In his homily, he denounced the "tragic rejection of human life, which is today denied to many people who emigrate", hammering one last time this message of welcome of migrants who punctuated his stay of less than 48 hours in this great port of the Mediterranean, with history and population shaped by migration.
Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they seek hospitality
In the morning, he closed with a long speech the "Mediterranean Meetings" which brought together for a week 70 bishops and young people from around this sea marked by the presence of the three great monotheistic religions.
Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they seek hospitality," he said, adding that this process must be managed "with a European responsibility capable of facing objective difficulties".
'Fear and indifference'
An echo of his statements on Friday, when he had castigated upon his arrival the "fear" and "indifference" in the face of the fate of those who seek to cross the Mediterranean, fleeing war, or seeking a better future in the face of poverty or climate upheaval. These strong words come amid growing hostility in Europe towards would-be migrants and even as a new wave of arrivals on the Italian island of Lampedusa has tested the solidarity of the European Union.
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The pope was speaking to many French officials and European institutions, including French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who said Tuesday that his country would not receive migrants from Lampedusa, while the right and the far right castigated a "migratory submersion". The pontiff also pleaded for an "integration" of migrants rather than "assimilation", which "compromises the future" by "provoking hostility and intolerance".
At the end of the morning, the pope spoke for half an hour with Emmanuel Macron, whose government is soon to present a new law on immigration, where the question of the regularization of undocumented workers is debated. This is the fourth meeting between the two men, who maintain cordial relations and are familiar with each other.
Calm and peace
According to the French presidency, the two men discussed these two subjects during their meeting, with "a real joint desire to fight" against smugglers "and to provide humane solutions". However, they did not go into the details of the end-of-life text, which could go so far as to include "active assistance in dying".
Don't forget to pray for me, it's not an easy job
This trip, the first of a sovereign pontiff in Marseille in nearly 500 years, seems to have aroused less enthusiasm than expected, especially on the Popemobile route en route to Mass, where the crowd seemed much less than the 100,000 people expected, even if no official figures will be available. "The pope fills me with calm, with peace. When he speaks, he makes me feel something huge," said Sandra Vélez, a 53-year-old Colombian living in France, accompanied by her daughter and son.
Receiving a standing ovation from a standing crowd, the pope concluded the Mass in the cathedral of the Velodrome by calling, in French, to give him support: "Do not forget to pray for me, it is not an easy job," he said, after evoking, in Italian, the 86 victims of the attack of July 14, 2016 in Nice.