VATICAN CITY — Drumming, dancing and singing erupted from the
Zimpeto Stadium in the peripheries of Maputo, in the embattled African
country of Mozambique, on Friday when Pope Francis reminded the more
than 40,000 people present that “you have a right to peace!”
was the first stop of the pope’s three-country trip to Africa Sept.
4-10, where he also visited the two island nations of Madagascar and
Mauritius. He called for peace and beseeched the crowd to care for the
sick and the marginalized among them.
“No family, no group of
neighbors, no ethnic group, much less a nation, has a future if the
force that unites them, brings them together and resolves their
differences is vengeance and hatred,” Pope Francis said during the
homily at a Mass at the stadium.
“An ‘equity’ born of violence is
always a spiral with no escape, and its cost is extremely high,” he
added. “Yet another path is possible, for it is crucial not to forget
that our peoples have a right to peace. You have a right to peace.”
Francis’ remarks come just a month after Mozambique’s president, Filipe
Jacinto Nyusi, signed a new treaty with the armed guerrilla forces,
Renamo, led by Ossufo Momade. The treaty was the third effort for
reconciliation, following a first peace accord in Rome in 1992 that was
mediated by the Catholic lay movement Sant’Egidio.
and general elections in the country are expected to take place Oct. 15,
with both Nyusi and Momade as candidates, raising the concern of a
resurgence of the violence that has characterized politics in Mozambique
since it gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.
the conflicts and devastating cyclones that have ravaged the country,
Mozambique also suffers from one of the worst HIV/AIDS epidemics in the
world. Almost two million Mozambicans live with HIV, more than half of
them women and children, according to UNICEF data.
Encouragement in fight against poverty, climate threat
Madagascar, Pope Francis greeted packed stadiums full of celebrating
locals, spoke to crowds numbering up to 1 million people and was
embraced by many of the country’s youth, who traveled and waited for
hours to catch a glimpse of him during his trip.
But while the
pope’s visit to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius was buoyed by an
optimistic message of peace and faith, the realities he addressed at
nearly every stop weighted his speeches and meetings with concerns about
climate change, poverty and other darker issues.
In the capital
of Madagascar, Antananarivo, on Sept. 7, Pope Francis called on local
authorities to take more responsible care of the planet’s resources for
the good not only of present generations, but also of those yet to come,
Deforestation in Madagascar has become an increasing
concern as a growing portion of its biodiverse forests are cut down and
burned to leave way for cattle and farmland. According to photographic
evidence, more than half of the forest in Madagascar has been lost since
Beyond the quickening depletion of the country’s resources,
the citizens of Madagascar also face crippling poverty levels that
leave 75% of the population living on less than $2 a day, according to
the World Bank.
During a vigil at the Soa Mandrakizay field on
Saturday, Pope Francis encouraged the thousands of young people to not
stop moving forward despite the challenges of day-to-day survival and
despite social injustice and instability.
Some may be tempted to
give up, the pope said, adding that the devil often reminds us of our
sins and imperfections to make us feel like however much we do, nothing
can ever change, everything will remain the same.
But God, the pope said, wants you to share all your gifts and charisms, all your dreams and your talents.
Warning against ‘idolatrous economic model’
island nation of Mauritius welcomed Pope Francis, who enalso couraged
its people to embrace their rich diversity as the country struggles with
past and recent forms of colonization.
Located 1,200 miles from
the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius was the last
stop of the pope’s three-country visit to Africa that also included
Mozambique and Madagascar. It is the only Hindu majority country in
Africa but is home to several other religions and cultures, largely due
to the British Empire’s importation of cheap labor from nearby
In light of the varied cultural makeup in the country,
the pope called its leaders to take up the challenge of welcoming and
protecting those migrants who today come looking for work and, for many
of them, better conditions of life for their families.
has witnessed tremendous economic growth in the past decade, thanks to
savvy financial policies that promoted tourism and substantial foreign
investments. While today Mauritius can be described as an oasis of
peace, Pope Francis said at the Rduit Presidential Palace that it must
still remain vigilant.
The pope warned against an “idolatrous
economic model that feels the need to sacrifice human lives on the altar
of speculation and profit alone, considering only immediate advantage
to the detriment of protecting the poor, the environment and its
“Those who suffer the most in this global profit-based
environment,” Pope Francis said, “are young people, who are often
unemployed and unsure of the future.”