The migration crisis characterized the papal flight to Marseille, France from the very first minute. Pope Francis highlighted this to journalists during the brief greeting he shared with them.
In the last few weeks, more than 16,000 migrants and refugees from Africa have arrived in Italy alone.
So many things in this city is the door, the window and everything into the Mediterranean.
As usual, many of the journalists presented gifts to the Pope.
After an almost two-hour flight, Pope Francis landed at Marseille International Airport. From there, he headed to the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica near the Old Port of Marseille. The cathedral is known among locals as the “Good Mother” as it has historically been a symbol of hope and protection for sailors, fishermen and the people of the city.
After a brief meeting with the diocesan clergy, he left the basilica to pay homage to the migrants and refugees who died in the sea between Europe and Africa.
Too many people fleeing conflict, poverty and environmental calamities, find among the waves of the Mediterranean the ultimate rejection of their search for a better future.
The tribute took place in front of the Marseille monument dedicated to sailors and migrants who died at sea.
The following day Francis participated in the closing of the 'Mediterranean Encounters', an event to discuss the problems in the maritime area of southern Europe and North Africa.
Then, the long-awaited meeting took place: that of the pope with the president of France, an important actor in the policies of the European Union in the management of the migration crisis or the war in Ukraine.
Afterwards, the Pope celebrated Mass in the Vélodrome stadium in front of thousands of people. There he reflected on the challenge of coexistence in large European cities.
Our metropolitan cities and many European countries such as France, where different cultures and religions coexist, are at this moment a great challenge against the exasperations of individualism.
At the end of the celebration the Pope returned to Rome. During the return flight one of the journalists asked him if he considered that he had failed in the appeal he made 10 years ago from Lampedusa, where he asked to welcome migrants and refugees.
I will say no. I will say that growth has gone slowly.
There is more awareness today. Not because I spoke about it. But because people have become aware of the problem. So many people are talking about it. It was my first trip. I want to say one more interior thing. I didn't even know where Lampedusa was. But I heard the stories. I read something and in prayer, I heard: you have to go. Like the Lord was sending me there on my first trip.
This was the Pope's 44th international trip in his 10 and a half year pontificate.