When he enters the stadium, there is excitement. Under the acclamations of nearly 60,000 pilgrims, the Pope was welcomed as a star at the Vélodrome. While he was invited to Marseille by Cardinal Aveline, on the occasion of the closing of the Mediterranean Meetings, Francis was also eagerly awaited in this place of popular fervor. Among the crowd, many families came to share this unique moment. In the second row of the stands, Émilie is surrounded by her three daughters. “It is an honor to be here, the Pope is a model for family, fraternity and sharing. Coming here is to show my children that being a Christian in your living room is not enough, we must share our joy and our faith. And this unifying place is representative… Even if it is surprising to present your identity card to go to mass,” jokes the mother. At his side, Clotilde, blonde ponytail flying in the wind, smiles, impressed by the crowd around her. Like their neighbors, the four girls wore blue clothing distributed by the organizers: the alternation with the white clothing makes up the colors of Marseille, inevitably associated with the famous Olympique de Marseille club.
From the lawn, covered with white boards, Lucas, in his twenties, confides that he is more used to coming here to support his team. “As Marseillais, we are proud of this place, but this is the first time that I have come with my mother, my aunt, my brother and my sister at the same time,” he smiles. Crouching down, her sister Romane, recognizes: “Usually, we go to mass for major events like Easter or Christmas. Today it’s even more festive, even if, of course, there is an element of solemnity .”
On the other side of the stadium, Constance, Yann and their three boys came from Aix-en-Provence for the celebration. “My husband is not Catholic. But it is an opportunity to pass on to our children an interest in religion. I still remember precisely the strong emotion that I felt when I saw, when I was younger , John Paul II in Rome,” she confides, grateful.
The importance of transmission is on everyone’s lips: this festival also celebrates intergenerational gathering. David, 45, came accompanied by his mother, Marie-Noëlle, 68: “Obviously, this event strengthens our ties. It brings together two pillars of our life: family and religion.”
Sometimes, the request to come to the Vélodrome came from the children themselves. Emma, 16, was able to invite her mother. A student at a sewing school, this young Catholic participated in the creation of the stoles worn by priests on this feast day. Shyly, she agrees with a breath: “Yes, I’m very proud of it.” At 9 and a half years old, Thaïs also convinced her parents and her brother to come.
For his mother, Cécile, a non-believer, accompanying him was a matter of course. “We are not Catholic, but we come to support our daughter who believes in God. We are attached to the values of Christianity and particularly to Pope Francis,” adds the one who also campaigns for the reception of migrants. In the stands, the children look amused at the large screens which broadcast the celebration live. This moment should be remembered forever.