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Pope in France: his first day in France

(ZENIT News / Vatican City – Marsella, 09.22.2023).- On Friday, September 22, the 44th International Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis began as he departed for Marseille, France, to conclude the “Mediterranean Meetings,” an event addressing migration issues in Mediterranean countries.

In the afternoon of Friday the 22nd, before leaving for France, Pope Francis received around 20 women who were staying at the Dono di Maria house, run by the Missionaries of Charity, who are entrusted with their care.

Photo: Vatican Media

Shortly thereafter, at 2:45 PM, Pope Francis departed for Rome-Fiumicino International Airport to board an A320 aircraft from ITA Airways. The plane landed at Marseille International Airport at 4:03 PM.

While aboard the flight to Marseille, Pope Francis greeted the journalists accompanying him. Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, began by saying, “Good morning, Your Holiness. Today, about seventy journalists from various countries, many of them French, are traveling with you, delighted to journey alongside you. Many other members of the media are eagerly awaiting your arrival in Marseille and are happy to greet you at this moment.” Pope Francis responded:

“Good afternoon to everyone, and thank you for coming. I wish you all good work. It will be a short but eventful visit in this city, which serves as both the gateway and the window to the Mediterranean. Thank you.”

Arrival in Marseille

Upon his arrival at Marseille International Airport, Pope Francis was welcomed by the Prime Minister of the French Republic, Mrs. Élisabeth Borne, and four children dressed in traditional attire, as well as a young person who offered him flowers and presented some gifts.

Photo: Vatican Media

After the national anthems were played and the Honor Guard was presented, the respective delegations were introduced. Subsequently, Pope Francis, accompanied by the Prime Minister, proceeded to the Hélène Boucher Hall for a brief meeting.

Upon concluding this meeting, Pope Francis made his way to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde for a Marian prayer with the diocesan clergy.

Marian Prayer with the Diocesan Clergy at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde

At 5:15 PM, Pope Francis arrived at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde for a Marian prayer with the diocesan clergy.

Upon his arrival, Francis was greeted at the entrance by Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, Metropolitan Archbishop of Marseille, and the Rector, who presented him with the cross and holy water. After walking down the nave to the altar, accompanied by a choir’s song, he paused in silent prayer before the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Guard.

Photo: Vatican Media

Following the welcoming address by the Cardinal Archbishop of Marseille, Pope Francis delivered some words of greeting. Subsequently, the prayer to the Virgin of the Guard was recited, followed by a blessing and the final hymn. Afterward, Pope Francis proceeded to the Memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea.

Pope and Other Religious Leaders at the Memorial for Those Lost at Sea

At 6:15 PM, Pope Francis had a moment of reflection with religious leaders near the Memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea. Present were members of Marseille Espérance, a delegation from Stella Maris, a delegation from Caritas Gap-Briançon, a delegation from the diocesan service for migrant pastoral care, and a delegation from Associations de secours en mer for a prayer time for migrants who died at sea.

After the opening anthem and the welcome greeting by Metropolitan Archbishop of Marseille, Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, Pope Francis delivered his speech.

Photo: Vatican Media

Following a reading by a young migrant, the performance of a song, and prayer intentions from a member of Marseille Espérance, a member of Stella Maris, a member of Caritas Gap-Briançon, a member of the diocesan service for migrant pastoral care, and a member of Associations de secours pour les migrants, Pope Francis concluded the moment of reflection. He, along with two migrants and religious leaders, proceeded to the monument for those lost at sea, where he laid a wreath of flowers at its base. While the choir sang a song, the Holy Father greeted the religious leaders.

Subsequently, he went to the Archbishop’s Palace in Marseille, where he was received by the staff and met with a dozen members of the Brotherhood. After greeting them individually, he joined them for a brief prayer.