By Francesca Merlo
“We are very grateful” to Pope Francis for accepting to visit Mauritius during his Apostolic Journey, says Cardinal Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port Louis. After visiting the “big island” of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar, Pope Francis traveled to one of the smaller ones, Mauritius.
Social harmony in Mauritius
Mauritius, said Cardinal Piat, is known “as a country in which people from various cultures and various religions live together”, and they do so “with a certain amount of social harmony”, despite it being such a “small space”.
Cardinal Piat says that although there are, of course, problems at times, “it is good to live in Mauritius, among people with such varied backgrounds”, both cultural and religious.
A Christian message for all
He believes that the Pope addressed his message to everybody. “A Christian message, of course”, he says, “but voiced and expressed in ways in which it can be understood by everybody else, too”.
Even our “brothers and sisters” from different backgrounds enjoyed this visit with “much joy”, and they collaborated fully in order to “make it a success”.
A spiritual authority
Cardinal Piat says that he believes it is because they consider the Pope a spiritual authority beyond “the limits of the Catholic Church”. He is “listened to and admired as somebody who installs peace”, through his manner of speaking and through his way of life. He is therefore, according to Cardinal Piat, someone who can bring “a breath of fresh air and a renewal of our commitment of living together.”
Deepening our Christian Identity
Cardinal Piat says that in order to live in harmony “we must be able to deepen our Christian Identity”. Because, he explains, “this identity is true” and it is open to others. “Christ on the cross had his arms open to the world and true Christians should be close to Christ”, he says.
This openness, continues Cardinal Piat, is what we are trying to achieve “ humbly and will small steps”. It is a daily challenge, he adds, because “whenever we go out in Mauritius” we meet people from different backgrounds, and as you know “it is becoming a challenge for people all over the world”.
“How can we live together when we are so different? How can we welcome one another and how can we be brothers?” he asks.
This re-discovering our Christian identity is a challenge that the Churches are facing across the Archipelago, though, he says, they are “not exactly the same”.
Faith in the islands started as “something attached to social identities”, he says. Cardinal Piat explains that “at the beginning”, “all the inhabitants had to be baptized” and that therefore it is easy to take for granted that someone with Creole origins in Mauritius might be a Christian.
“So”, concludes Cardinal Piat, “we have to rediscover the beauty and the specificity of our identity. Our Christian Identity.”