By Vatican News
Mauritius is a beautiful island nation located in the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Southern Africa. Long-renowned for its beautiful beaches, it is a top destination for tourists across the globe.
The nation’s history has resulted in a varied population and a complex mix of cultures. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution.
Traces of Portuguese, French and British control - and long periods of labor migration - have left clear marks on the current society, and recent decades have been transformative, starting with its independence in 1968.
Current government policies focus on stimulating the economy, mainly by modernizing infrastructure and serving as the gateway for investment into the African continent. One of the main areas of concern regards environmental issues threatening the island nation, like water pollution, soil erosion and endangerment of wildlife.
Recent statistics show that 8% of the 1.36 million Mauritian population is living below the poverty line with about 1% living on $1 a day or less, meaning that extreme poverty is close to non-existent.
These are the people the Catholic Church is closest to, with pastoral programmes, healthcare centers and education.
Sister Shirley Cornet says poor Mauritians are waiting for the Pope to affirm them in their dignity and rights:
“What we expect from the visit of the Pope,” Sr Shirley says, is that he highlight that poor people not only need material assistance but “they need to regain their dignity and feel that they are accepted for whom they are”.
She says that the religious in the country are waiting for the Pope to give them encouragement and “feel that there is someone ‘upper but lower’. That means, she explains, “that where he is, he is coming down like Christ coming on earth to be with people and to live with people.
“We need to know”, Sr Shirley concludes, “and wish to have some new ideas to help people nowadays.”