By Devin Watkins
The Pope sets off on his Apostolic Journey to Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius next Wednesday.
His first stop is in Maputo, the Mozambiqan capital, where he will meet with civil, interreligious, and Church authorities, and celebrate Mass for local Catholics.
Speaking in Portuguese in a video message sent Friday ahead of his arrival, Pope Francis said his heart reaches out to embrace all the people of Mozambique, even though he is “unable to go beyond the capital”.
Some had hoped he might visit areas hit by Cyclone Idai earlier this year, which caused widespread destruction and loss of life, especially in the coastal city of Beira. At least 600 people died as the storm brought massive flooding and high winds.
But Pope Francis did not forget them, saying that his fraternal embrace extends especially to “those who live in difficult situations.”
“I would like to leave you with this certainty: you are all in my prayers. I look forward to meeting you,” he said.
Reconciliation and peace
The Holy Father went on to thank Mozambique’s president and Catholic bishops for inviting him to visit.
He urged everyone to pray with him for the reconciliation process underway in the country.
The Pope said “fraternal reconciliation” is needed in Mozambique and throughout Africa, calling it “the only hope for a solid and lasting peace.”
The Catholic Church – particularly through the St Egidio Community –worked tirelessly to help seal a peace deal between warring factions. The ruling Frelimo party and former guerrilla movement, Renamo, signed a permanent ceasefire in early August 2019.
More than 1 million people were killed in Mozambique’s civil war that raged from 1977 until 1992, when a truce was inked, though violence has flared periodically.
Confirm Catholic community
Pope Francis also made mention of Pope St John Paul II’s visit in 1988, when the civil war was still raging.
The Holy Father said his journey will allow him to see how the seed of peace sown by his predecessor is growing.
“This Journey will allow me to meet the Catholic community and confirm it in its witness to the Gospel,” he said, “which affirms the dignity of every man and woman and asks us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and needy.”
Gratitude for prayers
The Pope closed his greetings to the people of Mozambique by extending his thanks to those preparing for his visit through their hard work and prayers.
And he prayed that God might bless the nation’s people and that the Virgin Mary protect them.
“See you soon!” he said.