By Vatican News
“If we must recognize, esteem, and appreciate this blessed land for its beauty and its priceless natural resources, we must do the same for this ‘soul’, which, as Father Antoine de Padoue Rahajarizafy, SJ, has rightly observed, has given you the strength to keep embracing ‘aina’, life.”
That was Pope Francis’ reference to the Malagasy priest in his address to the civil authorities of Madagascar.
But who was he?
Fr Antoine de Padoue Rahajarizafy was a Jesuit priest, teacher, writer, and Malagasy philosopher born in the capital, Antananarivo, in 1911. He died in 1974.
He became the first Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus in Madagascar in 1969, and later the first Malagasy Rector of the prestigious College of St Michael. Founded in Antananarivo in 1888 by French Jesuit missionaries, the College of St Michael educates and trains catechists, teachers and officials.
Fr Rahajarizafy was a forceful defender of Malagasy identity and tradition, as well as the author of several books and articles. He actively defended the ancestral values handed down by local cultures, especially among young people.
Fr Rahajarizafy also co-founded the Andrianampoinimerina Academy, together with the pastor Rakotobe-Andriamaharo.