On the morning of the second day of his visit to Marseille, September 23, 2023, Pope Francis reserved a private moment for people in need, at a center run by the Missionaries of Charity — Mother Teresa’s sisters — in Saint-Mauront, the poorest district of the city of Marseille.
The 86-year-old Pontiff arrived September 22 to the French city. He met shortly afterward with a dozen people from the Fratello Association, a group he knows well. This association was created in France in 2014 and helped promote the World Day of the Poor.
The Pope held another series of private meetings this morning, first with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Greek politician Margaritis Schinas, and then with representatives of organizations helping migrants at sea.
After these informal meetings, the Argentine Pontiff headed for the Saint-Mauront district, sadly known as one of the poorest in France. More than 50 people awaited him at the home of the Missionaries of Charity.
The Pope was greeted by a small, happy crowd in a courtyard displaying welcome signs in various languages. A garland of flowers was placed around his neck by the sisters, according to Indian tradition.
Among those present was 52-year-old Yannick from Marseilles, who told reporters he was delighted by the visit of the Bishop of Rome, and praised the “high morale” of the nuns, who remain “in good spirits” despite the “lack of respect” they face when confronted with the harsh realities of the street.
During this off-camera meeting, Pope Francis presented the community with a statue of St. Joseph carrying the Infant Jesus in his arms.
The Pope then returned to the Palais du Pharo for the closing session of the Rencontres Méditerranéennes.
He is in Marseille for this event, which has brought together the bishops of the countries all around the Mediterranean to discuss their common challenges.
Notable is the problem of migration, as the Mediterranean is like a cemetery, the Pope laments.
At least 2,000 people have died since the start of the year trying to cross the Mediterranean, says the International Organization for Migration. Since 2014, it has counted 27,364 dead and missing at sea.