Pope Francis touched down at Marseille International Airport shortly after 4 pm, kicking off his 44th Apostolic Journey abroad.
He is in Marseille to participate in the closing session of the annual “Mediterranean Meetings”, Church-led initiatives or conferences held annually in a different city or town in Mediterranean countries that aim to find share solutions to the challenges of the region, in particular migration.
In Marseilles, the 2023 Mediterranean Meetings have brought together about 70 Catholic Bishops and 120 young people, aged 20 to 35, including Christians of other denominations, Muslims and believers of other faiths.
Pope Francis was welcomed on the plane by the Apostolic Nuncio to France, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, and by the French Ambassador to the Holy See, Mrs Florence Mangin.
French Prime Minster, Élisabeth Borne, awaited the Pope as he set foot on French soil, where he was honoured with the flying of the flag and the military guard. Four children were on the tarmac to offer him a bouquet of flowers and an image of St. Eligius, a 7th century bishop in what is now southern France, who is widely venerated in the area.
Shortly after his arrival, the Pope will visit the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, which overlooks the city. He will lead a prayer there, followed by an interfaith moment of remembrance at a monument for sailors and migrants lost at sea.
According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration, since 2014 over 28,000 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe have been recorded dead or missing. Some 180,000 arrivals have been registered in 2023 so far.
Following the moment of remembrance, Pope Francis will gather with representatives of associations that assist migrants and refugees upon their arrival and with leaders of other faiths present in Marseille for the Mediterranean Meetings.
That event wraps up the Pope’s first day in Marseille. Straight afterwards he will travel to the Archbishop of Marseille’s residence where he will be spending the night.