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ROME – Despite a recent papal health scare, the Diocese of Marseille has announced that Pope Francis will visit in September to close an ecumenical meeting with young people on the challenges of the Mediterranean region.
In a communique dated March 31 but published Thursday, the Archdiocese of Marseille said that Pope Francis has accepted the invitation of Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, archbishop of Marseille, “to travel to Marseille where he will conclude the Mediterranean Meetings on September 23, 2023.”
The Mediterranean Meetings will be held from Sept. 18-24, 2023, and will draw together some 60 representatives of churches from the five shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and around 60 young people from the same areas to discuss the current political, economic, and environmental challenges of the Mediterranean region.
Participants, according to the Archdiocese of Marseille, will explore the resources at their disposal for solving current problems and work to draft solutions aimed at peace and reconciliation, with a special focus on the role churches play in the process.
In their communique, the Marseille diocese said the pope’s schedule for his daytrip would include an ecumenical and interreligious prayer at the city’s iconic Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica, as well as a meeting with young people and bishops from the Mediterranean, and a public Mass.
“In anticipation of this great event, we pray for the speedy recovery of the Holy Father’s health and for the fruitfulness of his mission,” the statement said.
The confirmation of the pope’s visit from Marseille comes after a recent health scare and hospital stay for Pope Francis that left many wondering if he would be able to fulfill other travel obligations on his calendar, including a visit to Hungary later this month.
Pope Francis was admitted to Rome’s Gemelli hospital Wednesday, March 29, after experiencing breathing difficulties. He received intravenous antibiotic treatment for bronchitis and was discharged Saturday, April 1, and celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square the next day.
He presided over all of his Holy Week and Easter liturgies, apart from Good Friday’s Via Crucis at the Colosseum, which he skipped due to what the Vatican described as “intense cold” weather in Rome.
In the wake of his hospital stay, many wondered whether Francis would be able to make his April 28-30 visit to Hungary as planned. During his whirlwind visit, he is expected to meet with Hungarian President Katalin Novák and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and with poor children and refugees.
So far there has been no indication that the pope’s visit to Hungary has been cancelled, and preparations are moving forward as planned.
The last time Pope Francis cancelled a trip due to his health was last summer, when he postponed a July visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan due to his ongoing osteoarthritis of the knee. The trip took place in late January-early February of this year, instead.
While returning from Africa Feb. 5, Francis said a trip to Marseille in September was being considered, and that it was possible he would fly directly to Mongolia after, however, he insisted those plans were not final.
There was no mention of Mongolia in Thursday’s communique from the Archdiocese of Marseille. The Vatican has not yet officially announced the pope’s Marseille visit, and it has not indicated if a trip to Mongolia is still under consideration.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told Crux that both the Marseille visit and the potential visit to Mongolia are “in different stages of study,” but neither have been formally announced.
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