Marseille (France), Sep 23 (EFE).- Thousands of people lined Marseille’s Avenue du Prado on Saturday to seize the “historic” opportunity to see Pope Francis. They applauded and cheered as he passed amidst Vatican, French, and Marseille flags.
Despite the intense sun and amidst a robust security presence, Francis crossed part of the city in the popemobile, heading toward the Velodrome stadium. Approximately 50,000 people awaited him to lead a mass that marked the culmination of the third edition of the Mediterranean Encounters.
The tour had been organized by the city, the diocese, and the French government specifically to allow those without tickets to participate in the event due to high demand.
According to estimates from local authorities, around 100,000 people lined the route to the stadium, as reported by the Vatican.
“Historic, historic,” said a Marseille resident of Spanish origins, who attended the event with her entire family, including her 19-month-old great-granddaughter, in an interview with EFE.
On Avenue du Prado, giant screens had been set up to broadcast the mass live.
“He is a personality who brings us only good things. It’s about peace. It’s about everything,” said another enthusiastic Frenchwoman from the neighboring city of Aix-en-Provence. She carried small white and yellow flags and had the French tricolor on her head.
Another flag seen was the white one with the blue cross of the city of Marseille, a symbol of the historic visit to the “phocian city.”
This visit marked the first time a pope had visited the major French gateway to the Mediterranean since 1533, when Clement VII came.
Francis arrived in Marseille yesterday to conclude the third edition of the Mediterranean Meetings.
This event, which had been in its third edition since the previous Sunday, brought together bishops from around thirty countries and young people of different nationalities to foster communion among the believers of the Mediterranean region.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde was Francis’ first stop to lead a prayer and pay tribute to those missing at sea, as the migration crisis in the Mediterranean was the central focus of the message Francis conveyed from Marseille.
“The Mediterranean has transitioned from being the cradle of civilization to the tomb of dignity. It represents the stifled cry of migrant brothers and sisters,” he stated on Saturday in the auditorium of the Palais du Pharo at the forum’s closing, with the presence of religious figures from across the Mediterranean and French political personalities, including President Emmanuel Macron.
Before noon, he held a brief closed-door meeting, and, after a break for lunch and rest, he departed in the popemobile for the Velodrome. EFE