Welcomed like a rock star, Pope Francis concluded on Saturday with a giant mass at the Vélodrome stadium in Marseille, a visit largely dominated by the denunciation of the fate reserved for migrants, but also the defense of the doctrine of the Church in the face of the project of end of life law in France.
It was the last stop of a two-day visit to the Marseille city, which the pope left by plane at 19:30 p.m. after a brief meeting, in an airport lounge, with French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Hello Marseille, hello France,” said the sovereign pontiff a few hours earlier, at the opening of the mass, in front of nearly 60.000 faithful, in the presence of the Head of State and his wife Brigitte, in the middle of a “extraordinary” security device, according to the authorities.
Under bright sunshine, the head of the Catholic Church was acclaimed by taking a popemobile around the lawn of the den of the Olympique de Marseille, the city's emblematic football club, welcomed 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 refused to many people who emigrate", hammering home one last time this message of welcoming migrants which marked his stay of less than 48 hours in this great Mediterranean port, with a history and population shaped by migration.
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, believing that this process must be managed “with European responsibility capable of facing objective difficulties.”
The Pope arrived at 20:40 p.m. in Rome.
On the return plane, when a journalist asked him if he had failed on the migration issue, he replied "no", saying he had noticed a slow emergence of awareness of the migration phenomenon.
“I would say that growth has been slow: today there is awareness of the migration problem,” he said.
Fear and indifference
On Friday, upon his arrival in Marseille, he castigated the "fear" and "indifference" towards the fate of those seeking to cross the Mediterranean.
Strong words in a context of growing hostility in Europe towards candidates for exile and even as a new wave of arrivals on the Italian island of Lampedusa has tested the solidarity of the European Union .
The pope spoke in front of numerous French officials and European institutions, including the French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, who affirmed on Tuesday that his country would not welcome migrants from Lampedusa, while the right and the extreme right castigated a “migratory submergence”.
The sovereign pontiff also pleaded for “integration” of migrants rather than “assimilation”, which “compromises the future” by “causing hostility and intolerance”.
After praising on Friday those who rescue migrants at sea, during a ceremony at the emblematic Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica, on Saturday he received in audience officials from the NGO SOS Méditerranée, based in Marseille , which charters a rescue boat.
At the end of the morning, the Pope spoke for half an hour with Emmanuel Macron, whose government must soon present a new law on immigration, where the question of the regularization of undocumented workers is debated.
The pope also indirectly mentioned the law expected in France on the end of life, warning against the “falsely dignified perspective of a gentle death”.
On this subject, he repeated his hostility during the end-of-trip press conference on the plane.
“We do not play with life! We do not play with life, neither at the beginning nor at the end,” repeated the sovereign pontiff. “Today, let us be attentive to ideological colonizations which (...) go against human life.”
On abortion, the Pope once again deplored in Marseille the fate of these "unborn children, rejected in the name of a false right to progress, which is on the contrary a regression of the individual".
Calm and peace
This trip, the first by a sovereign pontiff to Marseille in nearly 500 years, attracted tens of thousands of people, particularly on the popemobile route on the way to mass, along one of Marseille's main avenues.
“The pope fills me with calm, with peace. When he speaks, he makes me feel something enormous,” testified 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 Vélodrome Cathedral by calling, in French, for support: “Don’t forget to pray for me, it’s not an easy job,” he said. he said, after having mentioned, in Italian, the 86 victims of the attack of July 14, 2016 in Nice.
Writing (with AFP)