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Pope to defend migrants’ plight in Marseille and meet Macron

Pope Francis took part in the annual Mediterranean meetings led by the Catholic Church in Marseille. The pontiff plans to stay there for 2 days.

The pontiff is expected to be joined by some 70 bishops and 120 young people aged 20-35 from across the Mediterranean region to “promote fraternity throughout the Mediterranean”. Several Muslim leaders and representatives of other faiths will also attend.

Pope Francis plans to attend a Mass at the city’s Orange Velodrome stadium on Saturday afternoon, which is expected to be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron. The number of spectators is expected to be around 50,000.

As part of his two-day visit, Pope Francis will visit the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde and lead prayers there on Friday afternoon. He also plans to hold an interfaith ceremony at a memorial to sailors and migrants who died at sea.

The International Organisation for Migration has recorded more than 28,000 migrants as missing or dead while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe since 2014. UN reports, nearly 180,000 people have reached Europe this year. Francois Thomas, the president of SOS Mediterranée, which performs vessel rescues, said:

“He has always had a message of solidarity, of fraternity on this issue and on the Mediterranean tragedy. We have to have the courage to saythat we can’t let people drown at Europe’s doors.”

Francis has championed the cause of migrants since the beginning of his papacy, lamenting indifference to their plight and repeatedly criticizing world leaders for failing to adequately address the issue of deadly Mediterranean crossings.

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