Tomorrow, Pope Francis will head to Marseille, one of the main coastal cities in the south of France. This trip is not an apostolic trip, but rather one to address an issue important to him—similar to when he traveled to Strasbourg in 2014 to visit the European Parliament and the Council of Europe.
I went to Strasbourg. I will go to Marseille, but not to France. There is a problem that worries me, which is the problem of the Mediterranean. That is why I am going to France. The exploitation of migrants is criminal.
Pope Francis is closely following the situation of migrants in Europe. This theme will be very present in this trip as it coincides with one of the largest migratory waves experienced in Europe in recent years. A week before the trip, almost 12,000 people arrived in Italy from Africa.
On Saturday, the Pope will be present at the final session of the third edition of the “Mediterranean Meetings” that will include the participation of about 70 Catholic bishops and young people of all faiths. Among the topics discussed will be migration, poverty, conflicts and environmental issues.
A day earlier, on Friday, Pope Francis will participate in a joint prayer with other religious leaders near a memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea.
This trip will be a continuation of the appeals the Pope has made for migrants throughout his pontificate. It will take place against the backdrop of the serious migration crisis that Europe is experiencing.
Before leaving Marseille, the Pope will celebrate a Mass that will also be attended by the President of France, whom he will meet hours before.
President of the Republic of France
When we receive a head of state in France, like the Pope, who comes to celebrate Mass in the stadium, I consider it my duty. I am not going as a Catholic; I am going as President of the French Republic, which is indeed secular. I will go out of respect and courtesy, and I will have my place there, as many of my predecessors have also been able to go. I myself will not practice my religion at this Mass. And that is common for me. Sometimes I go to religious events, whatever the religion, for the sorrowful or more joyful events.
On this quick trip, Pope Francis will make his second visit to a French city and become the first Pope in five centuries to travel to Marseille.