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Francis in Marseille, ‘An Open Door to the World’
In a 2016 interview with La Croix, Pope Francis said he received an invitation from then-President François Hollande and the Bishops’ Conference itself to visit France. That was where he expressed a desire to travel to Marseille, “which represents an open door to the world.”

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, September 22, 2023, a papal flight carrying the pope, members of his retinue and accredited journalists took off for Marseille International Airport. They landed at 4:15 p.m. and were greeted by Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne and four children wearing traditional dress offering flowers.

After a brief meeting, the pope and the prime minister went to the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, known as Bonne Mère because it is a symbol of hope and protection for sailors, fishermen and the people of Marseille. Located south of the Old Port on a 162-meter-high limestone peak, it is one of Marseille’s most impressive buildings.

The church features a sumptuous bell tower, 41 m high, on top of which is the imposing 11.20 m gilded copper statue of the Madonna and Child. Inside it is decorated with more than 1,200 sq m of Byzantine-style mosaics, beautiful polychrome marble – white Carrara and red Brignoles – and about 380 sq m of Roman mosaics in geometric patterns on the floors. The interior walls are covered with about 2,500 votive offerings to the Virgin, mostly dedicated by sailors, featuring miniature boats, paintings and plaques.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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