Pope Francis will visit Marseille on September 22 and 23, 2023. The sovereign pontiff will celebrate a high mass at the Vélodrome stadium and will have the opportunity to speak with Emmanuel Macron even though his visit is not a state visit.

The mass at the velodrome will undoubtedly be the highlight of Pope Francis’ visit to Marseille. But this Christian celebration in the heart of the Marseille Olympic stadium will be only one step in the program of the sovereign pontiff expected in the Marseille city on September 22 and 23, 2023. During his short visit, His Holiness will speak with Emmanuel Macron as confirmed by the Elysée on September 14. Be careful, however, not to consider the visit of Pope Francis as a state visit, the head of the Church has repeatedly assured: he will go “to Marseille, not to France”.

Pope Francis’ visit coincides with the organization of the Mediterranean Meetings by the diocese of Marseille, the event which focuses on economic inequalities, migration and climate change is the main reason for the pontiff’s trip to France. And the 86-year-old, who has made the issue of migration a central subject of his pontificate, is due to deliver a speech during these meetings, on the morning of September 23. “The problem that concerns me is the Mediterranean problem, that’s why I’m going to France. The exploitation of migrants is criminal,” he declared at the beginning of August when returning from the World Youth Days in Lisbon. “The Mediterranean is a cemetery. […] That’s why I’m going to Marseille,” he added.

The Pope will also attend a prayer at the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica and pray near the Memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost at sea from the afternoon of Friday September 22, after having been welcomed by Emmanuel Macron at the airport.

After his meeting with people in precarious situations and his speech at the Mediterranean Meetings on the morning of September 23, Pope Francis must parade aboard his “Papamobile” on Avenue du Prado, from the seaside to the stadium Velodrome where he will hold a mass from 4:15 p.m. The parade will start precisely from the Promenade Georges Pompidou and the faithful will be able to attend the procession all along the Avenue du 8ème arrondissement. Giant screens installed along the route will allow Marseille residents to not miss anything of the show, adds Actu Marseille.

After the parade, it is within the walls of the famous Marseille stadium that the sovereign pontiff will stand to celebrate a high mass. The Vélodrome stadium “brings together Marseille in all its diversity, it will be as if it were going to each Marseillais”, rejoiced, at the beginning of June, the cardinal and archbishop of Marseille Jean-Marc Aveline. Please note that the Pope will occupy the stadium only a few days after the French XV take the field for the Rugby World Cup.

The arrival of Pope Francis is not a state visit, yet Emmanuel Macron will exchange several interviews with the sovereign pontiff. The President of the Republic will welcome the head of the Church at the airport on the afternoon of September 22, will speak with him, privately, from the Pharo palace at midday on Saturday September 23 and will attend mass at the Vélodrome.

Emmanuel Macron’s presence at mass is not viewed favorably by all politicians. Elected officials from the left also believe that this arrival is contrary to the principle of secularism, a subject which has been debated in recent weeks, particularly with the ban on wearing the abaya at school. The Elysée, however, responds that it is a question of the Head of State participating in a “popular event”. Emmanuel Macron should not speak. Finally, it is again the President who will accompany Pope Francis to Marseille Provence airport, enjoying a final brief interview.