By Fr Paul Samasumo - Maputo, Mozambique
Pope Francis touched down here at the Maputo International Airport around 6:30 pm local time. The arrival marks the start of an Apostolic Visit to this country.
Mozambicans have been preparing for this visit for months – and it shows. I spoke to a religious here in Maputo. She has been on one of the preparatory committees and they been meeting every weekend from the month of May.
In Mozambique, there are only two topics of discussion: Pope Francis and the October national elections. The news on Television Mozambique last night featured a fifteen minutes Pope Francis special. The rest of the half-hour bulletin was shared between the elections and other news.
Upon his arrival
As Pope Francis arrived, he rode the seven kilometres to the Apostolic Nunciature on his popemobile. In some sections of the city, by 2 pm, residents of Maputo were already waiting for the Pope. Various parishes of Maputo Archdiocese positioned themselves along the streets that the Popemobile will follow from the airport.
I saw parishioners and sodality movements lined along the streets, waving paper flags. There is an atmosphere of celebration with people going about in traditional attire or Church uniforms. Not to be outdone were the parish choirs singing and drumming songs of welcome for Pope Francis. The popemobile meandered from the airport, past the Heroes of Mozambique Square, to the Eduardo Mondlane Avenue, on to the Julius Nyerere Intersection, right up to the Kwame Nkrumah junction that leads to the Apostolic Nunciature.
Pope for peace
The mantra here is: “The Pope is coming to Mozambique to bring us peace.”
It is a good sign that augurs well for the prospects of peace in this nation whose people have struggled to live in harmony.
There is also curiosity about Pope Francis.
The local organiser of the visit, Bishop António Juliasse Ferreira was asked if Pope Francis would sample some local fish dishes or the local Polenta of white maize known here as Sima. Would Pope Francis taste some local vegetables cooked in coconut and peanut? In reply, Bishop Juliasse told the media: Pope Francis will eat whatever the Apostolic Nunciature prepares for him.
One more curiosity... the popemobile that the Holy Father is using in Mozambique is the same one he used when he visited Kenya in 2015. According to Kenyan media, the popemobile has been repainted, and its seat covers refurbished.
The vehicle was then personally inspected by non-other than the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, before it could be shipped to Maputo.