Mozambique: "Hope, Peace, and Reconciliation"
Pope Francis arrived in Maputo, capital of Mozambique, on the evening of September 4th for a visit on the theme of “hope, peace and reconciliation.” Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony and independent country since 1975, has received a visit by a pope for the second time, the first being that of John Paul II in 1988. Following a long civil war (1977-1992), the country is working towards a national reconciliation, concretized by the signing on August 1st of a third peace agreement between the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) in power and the National Resistance of Mozambique (Renamo). The country is 30% Catholic, 18% Muslim, with many sects to making up the rest.
On September 5th the Pope met with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and the country’s civil authorities at the Ponte Vermelha Palace. Francis immediately couched his first remarks in the perspective of “hope for a better future” by having his “first words of closeness and solidarity be addressed to all those struck by cyclones Idai and Kenneth.” He expressed his “personal gratitude, and that of the larger international community, for the efforts made in recent decades to ensure that peace is once more the norm, and reconciliation the best path to confront the difficulties and challenges that you face as a nation.” Echoing the words of John Paul II in 1988, he added, “No to violence and yes to peace!” “Mozambique is a nation greatly blessed” by the richness of its environment and “you have a special responsibility to care for this blessing. The protection of the land is also the protection of life, which demands particular attention whenever we see a tendency towards pillaging and exfoliation,” he insisted. Pope Francis then issued a plea for a “productive, sustainable and inclusive development.”
On Thursday morning, September 5th, the Holy Father presided over an interreligious meeting with 15,000 young people at the Maxaquene Pavilion in Maputo. In a joyous atmosphere, reflecting the ethnic and religious diversity of the country, Francis addressed to the young people words of hope and encouragement, to build peace in their nation and “to fill in the gap of hope.” He invited young people to realize their dreams by warning them to “be on guard against two attitudes that kill dreams and hope, the attitudes of resignation and anxiety. These are great enemies of life, because they usually propel us along an easy but self-defeating path, and the toll they take is high indeed…We pay with our happiness and even with our lives.” The Pope urged young people to continue to “take up the challenge before us: to protect our common home.”
Editor's Note: On the ecologic and economic statements of the pope, we can refer to this recent observation of Bishop Nicola Bux, commenting on the Instrumentum laboris, preparatory to the upcoming Synod (see DICI No. 387, August 2019): “Jesus Christ came to bring God to earth, so that man might find the way to heaven: that is why he founded the Church. Instead, today’s clerics take care of the earth as if it were man’s permanent and lasting home. What is the symptom? They do not speak of the soul and therefore of its salvation..”
To conclude his speech, the Supreme Pontiff emphasized - from an interreligious perspective - how God’s love for each of his children is unique, faithful, and made of freedom and mercy. “God loves you, and this is something on which all our religious traditions are agreed,” he assured, before inviting the assembly to a little time of recollection. —Actually, regarding “religious traditions” there is only one which prevails:“that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil.2:10-11).
On Thursday afternoon, Francis went to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Maputo, to meet bishops, priests, men and women religious, seminarians, and catechists. Before the testimonies, the sisters danced, accompanied by a choir. To combat the “priestly crisis,” the pope said “sometimes we need to step away from important and solemn places” and avoid sinking into a daily life of meetings. Thus, he continued, rather than spending oneself in “spiritual small talk,” consecrated persons must “say ‘yes,’ and let our weariness come from things that bear fruit in God’s eyes. That is to say, let ourselves be ‘eaten and drunk’ through service nourished by the joy of ‘a daily commitment.’” For this, we must let ourselves be changed by encounter, dialogue and service. And especially not to “lament for times past,” which does not proclaim the Good News but something “dreary,” said the pontiff. “Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.” Saint Pius X to the French Bishops, Notre Charge Apostolique, August 10, 1910.
The Church in Mozambique needs to be a “Church of the Visitation,” explained the Pope. Indeed, witnessing divisions and resentment, it must not be part of “rivalries, contempt and divisions,” but must be a door to solutions. And in facing new problems—such as interreligious marriages—it must “find the road” and not “remain paralyzed by the mindset of opposition, division and condemnation.” This attitude requires prayer, he concluded, because the Holy Spirit “is the Teacher who can show us new paths to follow.”—These are the “new paths” that the Synod on the Amazon is supposed to find.
On Friday, September 6, Pope Francis visited the health center of Zimpeto, in the suburbs of Maputo. Founded and funded by the Sant' Egidio community, this structure helps pregnant women with AIDS and their children. In the Maputo region almost a quarter of people between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV-positive, and about one in eight people in the country are affected.
Then, the Pope celebrated Mass in front of 60,000 faithful at the Zimpeto stadium. In a festive atmosphere despite the rain, Francis urged Mozambicans to engage in a concrete love, following Christ, for a national reconciliation. “Love your enemies,” demands Christ, who calls for “active, disinterested, and extraordinary benevolence,” said the pontiff. For this, the Lord gives a “golden rule”: “do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.” Then the Pope strongly denounced corruption, euthanasia, and the abandonment of the elderly.
Madagascar: "Sower of Peace and Hope"
On Saturday morning, September 7th, Pope Francis addressed the authorities, diplomatic corps, and representatives of the civil society, at the presidential palace of Antananarivo. In his discourse, he spoke about politics and the protection of the environment on the Big Island, which should ensure the promotion of all the inhabitants, without exclusion. The pontiff, rejoicing at the implementation of a “fruitful democratic alternation” since the independence of the Big Island, encouraged them “to fight with strength and determination against all endemic forms of corruption and speculation that increase social disparity, and to confront the situations of great instability and exclusion that always create conditions of inhumane poverty.” He then asked them to take care of “this blessed land for its beauty and its invaluable natural wealth” and not to compromise “the future of the country and our common home.” In concluding his speech, Francis recalled the role of the Catholic Church from the perspective of integral human development respectful of Madagascar culture: “in ongoing dialogue with Christians of other confessions, the followers of the various religions and all the elements of civil society, to contribute to the dawn of a true fraternity that will always value fihavanana (the spirit of sharing, mutual help and solidarity). In this way an integral human development can be fostered, so that no one will be excluded.”
During his meeting with the Madagascar bishops, at Andolaho cathedral, the pope compared the pastor to the figure of the sower, called to spread around him the seeds of faith and hope, especially among the poorest. The Holy Father urged bishops to be close to God, to their priests and to their people. The pontiff insisted that we must be the first to choose to proclaim the Gospel to the poor. “The Church has a particular duty to protect and remain close to the poor, the marginalized and the little ones, to children and those most vulnerable, to the victims of exploitation and abuse.” And he adds that fidelity to the Gospel demands a closeness to God, through constant prayer, with the priests, and finally with the people of God. “The pastor who moves away from the people, who loses the smell of the people ends up becoming a court official,” warned the pope, departing from his text.—We find here an objection to a tradition “unsuited” to souls today, analogous to the preservation of museum pieces, to which Father Calmel replied: “charity pays attention to the real needs of the neighbor, to determine the right way to present the religion of all times so that, without being either corrupted or modified, it is in relation with the present conjuncture.”
Finally, the laity too are sent out to the harvest, however, the pope asked the bishops to not clericalize the laity at the risk of becoming “would-be priests or bishops.” “The deacon is the custodian of service in the Church. Please do not keep deacons at the altar: let them do their work outside, in service.” Francis did not fail to recall the pastoral challenges that are dear to him such as “the protection of the environment...or the problem of immigration.”
Pope Francis took part in a prayer vigil, in the Soamandrakizay diocesan camp, property of the Church of Antananarivo, in front of 100,000 young people. In a highly charged atmosphere, he invited them to be missionaries, to follow Christ.
Sunday, September 8, before nearly a million people in Soamandrakizay, the sovereign pontiff celebrated Mass. In his homily, he invited the faithful to renounce everything to follow Jesus. In particular the culture of privilege and exclusion (corruption). The pope lamented the proud individualism, the comfortable and reassuring retreat into oneself where “the poor no longer enter in, we no longer hear the voice of God, we no longer enjoy the quiet joy of his love, we are no longer eager to do good.” He invited the congregation to “allow the spirit of fraternity to triumph – a spirit born from the pierced side of Jesus Christ,” and to give themselves to develop human dignity.
The second day of Francis’ visit to Madagascar ended with a meeting with priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons, and seminarians, at Saint-Michel College in Antananarivo. Quoting the verse: “I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones” (Lk. 10:21), he encouraged them to live their mission in joy and “in the name of the Lord.” And the Pope exclaimed: “a happy Church of the poor and for the poor, a Church imbued by the fragrance of her Lord, a Church that lives joyfully by preaching the Good News to the marginalized of the earth, to those who are closest to God’s heart.”
Editor's Note: The Church has never ceased to preach, through the voice of her ministers, the great truths of salvation, and to all, rich or poor, small or powerful. “The only lasting renewal, in fact, will be one based on the changeless principles of faith, and it is the duty of priests to form the consciences of Christian people.” Pius XII, The Pilgrimage of Lourdes, July 2, 1957.
Mauritius: "Pilgrim of Peace"
Above Port-Louis, the capital of Mauritius, at the Mary Queen of Peace monument, the Holy Father celebrated Mass on Monday morning. Before a hundred thousand faithful, gathered on the mountainside, Francis presented the Beatitudes “as the identity card of the Christian” who must implement what Jesus declares in his sermon. As did, explained the Pope, Fr. Jacques-Désiré Laval, “the apostle of Mauritian unity,” whose feast was solemnly celebrated this September 9th by the Church in Mauritius. “ He knew that evangelization entails becoming all things to all people,” said Francis encouraging the faithful to “to foster this missionary momentum.”
The pontiff urges people to turn to the young: they “are our foremost mission!” Believers “must also discover anew Christ’s call to be ‘blessed.’ Only joyful Christians awaken in others the desire to follow this path,” the pope said. “We should be concerned not so much with the decline of this or that mode of consecration in the Church, but with the lack of men and women who wish to experience happiness on the paths of holiness. We should be concerned with the lack of men and women who let their hearts burn with the most beautiful and liberating of all messages.”
And he invites the faithful Mauritians to pray “to see a flowering of the call to holiness in the many and varied forms of life that the Spirit proposes to us.”
The Pope then went to Father Laval’s (1803-1864) tomb, a high place of Mauritian pilgrimage. Born September 18, 1803 in Croth, Eure, after having earned a doctorate in medicine and practicing for five years in Normandy, Jacques-Désiré Laval entered the seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1838 and appointed parish priest of Pinterville. Then he was sent to Mauritius in 1841.
Finally, the Holy Father met the authorities of the country gathered at the presidential palace. He welcomed the presence of representatives of other confessions and other religions. The country, he said, was “born of the arrival of migrants from different horizons and continents. Together, they managed to build a society committed to the common good.” The Pope emphasized that a “it is possible to achieve lasting peace when we start with the conviction that ‘diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a ‘reconciled diversity.’” A common project can therefore, according to him, exist without marginalizing or excluding.
And he called for the implementation of “an integral ecological conversion,” so, among other benefits, “that economic growth can really benefit everyone, without the risk of causing ecological catastrophes or serious social crises.”
Editor's Note: If we go back to Pope Francis' message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, September 1, 2019, we find the same injunction to “reflect on our lifestyles.” Conversion appears to be turned towards nature: it is no longer a question of obtaining salvation, of deepening the theological virtues, or of practicing moral virtues. We are in the most complete horizontal orientation. In other words: what remains Catholic in such a message?