While Mgr Aveline delivered a word of welcome to the Pope, Francis interrupted him with a witticism which caused a brief moment of hilarity.
Pope Francis’ visit to Marseille as part of the Mediterranean Meetings began this Friday, September 22, with a time of prayer to the Virgin Mary in the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica. In the ranks were the clergy of the diocese of Marseille – priests, deacons, seminarians, consecrated women – rectors of sanctuaries around the Mediterranean as well as representatives of the Church in France, starting with Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of Bishops of France.
Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, Archbishop of Marseille, delivered a welcome speech, recounting in particular the history of the basilica so dear to the people of Marseille. “From the moment you arrived, you wanted to do what we do here, every time a happy or unhappy event arises in our existence. We climb this hill to entrust ourselves to the Virgin Mary whom we call Good Mother.” A tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages, when sailors went to sea. Since then, Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde has been considered the guardian of sailors and fishermen.
But Notre-Dame de la Garde extends its protective mantle beyond just the people of Marseille. Bishop Aveline did not fail to recall all the saints who also came to pray with the Good Mother: Charles de Foucauld , before his numerous sea voyages, Thérèse of Lisieux , before going to meet the Pope in Rome, as well as the young priest Karol Wojtyla in 1957…
“It’s your turn, welcome, most Holy Father! “, then launched Mgr Aveline, before being interrupted by this witticism from the Pope who undoubtedly wanted to play on the two meanings of the word “sinner”/”fisherman”: “Here come the sinners! “. A remark full of humility, which did not fail to make people smile and even laugh.