Vatican Corner 09-15-2019

Pope Francis had said that when he became Pope he didn’t want to travel very much because it was not in his nature. But a’er his first trip, a refugee camp, he realized the importance of his fatherly encounters where he can meet the people, hear their testimonies and shepherd them. He just wrapped up his 31st papal trip abroad, traveling to Africa again and this time south to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius on September 4-10, 2019. A year earlier President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique came to the Vatican and persuaded Pope Francis to visit his country. Pope Francis promised that if he was still alive, he would make his visit in 2019. So the 82 year old pontiff kept his promise. The themes of this African trip were: rejecting violence, promoting interreligious harmony, caring for the environment and stamping out government corruption. His very presence in Mozambique was the principle message according to Italian missionary and Pastor Giorgio Ferretti of Maputo, Mozambique. A’er 15 years of civil war, then mediation, a treaty, and 27 years of relative peace, there is still disorder and violence in parts of the country. A month prior to the Pope’s trip, the government finally signed a long-anticipated peace and reconciliation accord with the opposition party. Ferretti said, just having Francis walk the streets, meet and speak with the people, “is a great message of peace. President Nyusi while greeting Francis in Mozambique seemed to be making a public confession. Nyusi said “At some point in our history, we have not been able, as a Mozambican family, to live together and to be united.” We let our differences become too big, forgetting what unites us.” He then recited the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. President Nyusi even invited the leaders of the opposition to meet with Pope Francis. ” Francis encouraged the people of Mozambique to pray for “a firm and lasting peace.” He met with Church leaders and the country’s young people. A remarkable mosaic of young Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and others sang in unison “we are young people for peace.” Pope Francis was visibly moved by them and asked if they were ready to turn the page of violence to herald a new era for peace. They replied with a resounding “yes.” Pope Francis talked with a group of young students about his childhood in Buenos Aires. He noted that the children on Mozambique’s beautiful beaches played with a soccer ball made from strips of cloth. He recalled how as a boy he played with a similar ball made of cloth, “because at that time soccer balls were made of leather and were very expensive.” In addressing the youth, he pointed to two famous Mozambique athletes, one becoming one of the top ten best football players of the 20th century and the other winning 20 Olympic gold medals and how both “kept dreaming and moving forward.” Pope Francis spent two days in Madagascar, speaking to civic and Catholic leaders and a+ended a prayer vigil for youth. In Mauritius he had a brief stop, celebrated Mass, met with authorities and then returned to Rome. The troubled continent of Africa with all its terrorism, interfaith conflict, environmental harm, and poverty, represents Christianity’s greatest hope. An American research institute predicts that there will be a surge of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa from 25tt in 2015 to 42tt by 2060. Without this expansion Christianity would fall swiftly behind Islam as the world’s most popular faith. There are many problems in Africa, and the Pope’s successor will have to focus more on them, and who knows, he could even be an African.