Africa trip planted new seeds of hope, pope says
Pope Francis said he hoped the seeds planted by his visit to Africa would bear abundant fruit for everyone.
Following in the footsteps of evangelising saints before him, the pope said he sought to bring “the leaven of Christ” and his Gospel, which is “the most powerful leaven of fraternity, justice and peace for all people.”
Speaking to some 12,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on 11 September, the pope recalled his fourth apostolic journey to Africa.
He dedicated his general audience talk to a review of some of the highlights from his visit to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius between 4 and 10 September.
The pope said he wanted to “sow the seeds of hope, peace and reconciliation” in Mozambique, which had experienced two devastating cyclones recently and 15 years of civil war.
He said he also encouraged Mozambique’s leaders to keep working together for the common good. He noted how he saw that kind of cooperation in action at a hospital he visited which helps people, especially mothers and children, with HIV and AIDS.
Everyone worked together, “united, like brothers and sisters,” he said.
Reflecting on Madagascar, the pope noted that Madagascar is a country rich in natural resources and natural beauty, but marked by much poverty.
He said he asked that the people there would be inspired by their “traditional spirit of solidarity” in order to overcome the obstacles they face and foster development that respect both the environment and social justice.
In fact, “one cannot build a city worthy of human dignity without faith and prayer,” he said when he spoke to contemplative religious women.
Pope Francis said he wanted to visit Mauritius because it has become “a place of integration between different ethnicities and cultures.”
Not only was interreligious dialogue well-established there, he said, there were strong bonds of friendship among leaders of different religions.
“It would seem strange to us, but they have this friendship that is so natural,” he said, explaining how touched he was to find a large bouquet of flowers sent to him by the grand imam “as a sign of fraternity.”
He said he encouraged government leaders to stay committed to fostering harmony and to protecting democracy.
In his audience talk, the pope also explained why — before and after every trip — he always visits Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the basilica’s Marian icon “Salus Populi Romani”, which means “Health of the Roman people.”
He said he prays that she “accompany me on the trip, like a mother, tell me what I must do” and help “safeguard” everything he says and does.
Picture: Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 11 September 2019. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)