Despite competition from rugby and football on the same evening, many Marseillais participated in the vigils organized in the parishes of the diocese with delegations of bishops and young participants in the Mediterranean Meetings as distinguished guests. Saint-Victor Abbey, overlooking the Old Port, was one of the reception sites. Around a hundred people participated around two bishops – Mgr François Bustillo, bishop of Ajaccio, and Mgr Théodore Kontidis, archbishop of Athens – and four young people.
“The event combines the intellectual dimension at the Pharo (where the Mediterranean Meetings are held, Editor’s note) and another of local proximity here,” underlines Father Didier Rocca, parish priest of La Major. If you only have the intellectual dimension, in Marseille, it doesn’t matter. You need experience, real life. It is about showing young people and bishops the reality of Marseille. »
The Protestant temple partner of the event
And this reality is notably an in-depth dialogue between Christians. The pastor of the United Protestant Church of France Anne Faisandier was invited to the meeting. “It’s a Catholic event but one that has been part of a great openness from the start,” she says happily. All residents of Marseille are invited. » The Protestant temple on rue Grignan is a partner of the Rencontres de la Méditerranée and notably welcomed 30 young participants.
After a time of prayer, strong activities of the parishes around the Old Port were highlighted, with particular emphasis on social actions and in particular the testimony of the Franciscans who work in a neighborhood marked by poverty. The evening continued with an aperitif where, in the Marseille heat, everyone approached the bishops and young people very easily, like Dvir, an Israeli Jew, despite the language barrier.
Mgr François Bustillo is like a fish in water, while many Marseille Catholics of Corsican origin offer him encouragement. “We come to see what the Christians of Marseille are experiencing,” assures the future cardinal. Moreover, in these Mediterranean Meetings, what seems most important to me is to listen, to dialogue to try to understand the experience of others, rather than waiting for a large text or document. »
“In recent years, I too have been keeping a low profile, I’m afraid”
But the reality in Marseille is also the challenges facing France’s second city: at the Saint-Joseph chapel, to the north of the city, people from Marseille were keen to share their experience of the Marseille city, with all its contrasts. There is brother Jean-Michel who has lived for forty years in a housing estate in the northern districts and who says in a serious voice: “Drugs are corrupting our neighborhoods. I admit that in recent years, I too have been keeping a low profile, I’m afraid.”
But far from being a fuel for resignation, the implacable observation turns into a plea: “It is unacceptable for hooded armed people to confiscate even public space, the State no longer controls the situation.”
The mission he sets for himself? “Transmit to new generations, the sense of the collective”, so that they too try to fight against the endemic violence in their places of life. “I believe that it is by being at the heart of people’s lives that we are closest to the heart of God,” he says, without emphasis, to explain his presence.
An astonishing trio is also tackling this task of education and solidarity. A Catholic priest, a rabbi and an imam arrive at the foot of the altar and take their seats, aware of the effect they are having on the audience. They came to testify to their common work in schools, against interreligious violence. They are called in moments of extreme tension. For example, they intervened the day after the assassination on October 16, 2020 of Professor Samuel Paty, who taught in a college in Yvelines. They are also regularly called upon by schools to embody, in front of students, the possibility of understanding between Jews, Christians and Muslims.