Pope Francis’ first appointment in Marseille on Friday was with diocesan clergy in the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (“Our Lady of the Guard”).
In his address during the Marian Prayer service, the Holy Father recalled that the church in which the meeting took place was not founded as the result of a miracle or apparition, but because the people of God in Marseille, “sought and found here… the presence of the Lord through the eyes of His Holy Mother”.
The Pope focused his remarks on the “Marian dimension” of ministry, reflecting on the “intersection of gazes” brought about by Mary: the gaze of Jesus upon His people, and the gaze of the people toward the Lord.
Jesus, the Pope said, gazes tenderly upon all men and women, not judging us but lifting up the lowly. The Church’s ministers are called to reflect this gaze, he said, remembering that they have themselves experienced it and can in turn be men and women of compassion.
“Let us open the doors, not only of our churches and rectories, but especially of the heart, to show through our meekness, kindness, and acceptance the face of the Lord”, he encouraged them.
Pope Francis encouraged priests to always offer God’s forgiveness, and to rediscover “the joy of illuminating lives through the Sacraments.” And he encouraged them to be close to everyone, especially the poor and less fortunate.
Turning to the second gaze, “that of men and women who turn to Jesus”, Pope Francis highlighted the role of the Church’s ministers as intercessors.
Like Mary at the wedding of Cana, they “are called to be the voice of intercession for others”, ensuring that when they pray, they bring with them the needs of all those providence has placed in their path.
The Pope summarised his reflections by pointing to three images of Mary in the Basilica.
The great statue of Mary that “towers over its summit” reminds clergy to “bring the blessing and peace of Jesus everywhere”. An image of Mary holding the Child Jesus and a bouquet of flowers demonstrates how Mary presents Jesus to us, and also presents us, like a bouquet of flowers, to Him. And finally, the “splendour” of the image of Mary on the altar invites Christians to “become a living Gospel” by going out to share Jesus’ message with others.