Pope Francis will be visiting Marseille for two days later in September, marking the first time a head of the Catholic Church has returned to the city since 1533.
From Saturday 16th to Saturday 23rd September, the Rencontres Méditerranéennes 2023 will see some 1,000 priests and 150 cardinals from across the Mediterranean basin head to Marseille, in addition to Pope Francis, who will be present for the two last days of the event.
Thousands of members of the Catholic Church are also expected to flock to the city, which has had to wait for almost 500 years for a visit from a pope. The last leader of the Catholic Church to stop off in this part of southern France was Pope Clement VII in the first half of the 16th century.
A packed programme has been planned, including various masses and special visits to the city’s religious sites, as well exhibitions, blessings and inter-religious events, but the highlight for attending Catholics will no doubt be the mass that is set to take over the Orange Vélodrome venue on Saturday 23rd September.
An estimated 57,000 followers of the Catholic Church are expected to attend the mass, which will begin mid-afternoon. French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte have confirmed their presence at the occasion, to the surprise of many of secular France’s media outlets and politicians.
According to the Diocese of Marseille, 20 choirs made up of a total 1,000 choristers will fill the northern stands of the repurposed football stadium. The choice of venue is said to be costing the Church €800,000 to rent – a sum that will include the creation of an altar – but the local diocese is hoping that the collections made during the mass will finance, in part, the extraordinary event to the tune of €500,000.
For the full programme of events, please click here.
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Photo source: Ashwin Vaswani, Unsplash