Pope Francis arrived in Marseille on Friday for a two-day visit expected to focus on the surge in migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, bringing a message of tolerance amid bitter debate over how Europe manages asylum seekers.

Iran PressEurope: Pope Francis left Rome to make the two-day visit, marking his 44th Journey abroad, to close the “Mediterranean Meetings” (Rencontres Méditerranéennes), which has been gathering bishops and young people from across the Mediterranean Sea to reflect on migration.

Earlier this week, the Pope had praised the upcoming visit as an opportunity to promote fraternity, through the Meetings, which will gather representatives from the region.

The pontiff will be greeted by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne before leading prayers at the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde for migrants who have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

The trip was months in the planning, but now comes after thousands of migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Almost 130,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, according to government data, which makes migration a problem for the entire European Union according to Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

The Pope is known for openness towards migrants, but has previously said that they should be shared among the 27 EU countries

He once called their exclusion "scandalous, disgusting and sinful."

The pontiff will meet with the French President, Emmanuel Macron, twice during his visit.


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