Expected for Friday and Saturday, Pope Francis will conclude the Rencontres Méditerranéennes, days of dialogue and discussion between bishops and delegates on the major issues that challenge the peoples and Churches bordering the Mediterranean Sea
Environmental imbalances and geopolitical conflicts, the suffering of religious minorities, the various forms of poverty and, naturally, the tragedies linked to migratory flows: the bishops and young people from all the countries facing the Mediterranean will discuss the most urgent challenges of the Mediterranean area. common sea, ready to meet in Marseille and also welcome Pope Francis on Friday and Saturday.
In fact, the multi-ethnic French port city is currently hosting the Rencontres Méditerranéennes, a major event which includes the third assembly of the region’s bishops, after the first edition held in Bari in 2020 and that of last year in Florence. About seventy prelates from countries stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Middle East will meet: from tormented Syria to Lebanon plunged into an unprecedented crisis, from Morocco just hit by the earthquake to the Balkans, and then Iraq and Algeria, Cyprus and Malta, Greece, Spain, Turkey. For the first time, a parallel session will involve around forty young people, who will have the opportunity to discuss their respective experiences and imagine new ways of development and solidarity. And, over the weekend, there will be Pope Francis, who has repeatedly underlined the specificity of his trip to the French city, to listen and relaunch the requests that emerged during the works.
The venue chosen for this event, entitled “Mediterranean mosaic of hope”, is certainly not accidental: «The Pope’s visit is already a message in itself – stated Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, archbishop of Marseille – because this city multicultural and multi-religious is also faced with enormous difficulties: great precariousness of a good part of the population, drug trafficking, unemployment, educational deficit. But this great port which throughout its history has welcomed those who had left their country due to war or poverty, also knows how to find great resources of courage, solidarity and hope.”
The diocese of Marseille has therefore organized an entire week of festivals, with around a hundred events – guided visits to places of worship of different faiths and confessions, conferences, cultural and festive moments – in collaboration with the various religious communities active in the area. In line with Pope Francis’ message, there is no lack of attention to the most disadvantaged: from the great solidarity banquet “prepared by and for people in socially vulnerable situations” which will be held on Friday on the Esplanade de la Major, to the biblical workshop for women prisoners. And the Pontiff, on Saturday morning, will have a private meeting in the archbishopric with some people in a situation of economic hardship.
Among the most significant stages of Francis’ visit, after the official welcome by President Macron on Friday afternoon and the prayer to the Virgin in the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, there will be a moment of reflection with religious leaders near the Memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea. The following day, participation in the final session of the Rencontres Méditerranéennes in the Palais du Pharo and, in the afternoon, the Mass at the Vélodrome Stadium. «An opportunity – in the words of the festival director Amaury Guillem – to experience an important moment of the universal Church».