By Fr Paul Samasumo - Maputo
Pope Francis started his day by meeting the country’s political and civic leaders.
During the meeting, the President of the Republic of Mozambique, Felipe Nyusi addressed the Holy Father, and during his speech, the Mozambican President seemed to be making a public confession.
“At some point in our history, we have not been able, as a Mozambican family, to live together and to be united. We let our differences become too big, forgetting what unites us,” President Nyusi told Pope Francis. Then he recited the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.
Credit to the Mozambican President, he invited to the meeting with Pope Francis leaders of the opposition, namely, Ossufo Momade, President of Renamo; Deviz Simango and the other political leaders. All these gestures are building blocks for constructing peace.
Quoting Pope Saint Paul VI, Pope Francis told the Mozambican leaders: “Courage brings peace! Genuine courage: not the courage of brute force and violence.”
From this meeting, Pope Francis is encouraging, on the one hand, pleading for peace and sometimes prodding them to change and embrace peace.
Mozambique is not yet out of the woods. The peace is still fragile. But so far, the political leaders are making the right moves and overtures. If they will, they can cement the peace once and for all.
After his meeting with the country’s authorities, diplomats and representatives of civil society, Pope went to meet the country’s young people in Maputo’s Pavillon Maxaquene.
Following the request of the Mozambican government, the meeting of young people at Pavillon Maxaquene was not restricted to Catholics only but embraced other young people from different walks of life and faiths.
I spoke to one of the youth organisers who regretted the fact that the number was limited to the three thousand capacity of the venue. He said many young people wanted to attend the event but could not. Nevertheless, the meeting turned out to be a remarkable mosaic of highly charged young Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and young people from civil society. They all sang in unison, “we are young people for peace.”
In general, young people are not given to long speeches, and so they expressed themselves through song and dance. What we witnessed this morning was extraordinary: I found remarkable the sight of young Muslims singing a melodious song of peace before a Catholic Pope. Similarly unusual were young Hindu women performing before Pope Francis -they even had a gift for him.
Pope Francis was visibly touched by the young people. One could tell. The Pope was animated as he spoke to the young people and them that they are the future of the country. He asked them if they were ready to turn the page of violence to herald a new era for peace and they replied with a resounding yes.
Amidst the song and dance, many of these young people lament the lack of opportunities both before and after school. Mozambique has a high unemployment rate.
Pope Francis' afternoon engagements included a meeting with Bishops, Priests, Religious and Catechists. Catechists of Mozambique play a critical role in nurturing the faith of the people. During the war, many people had no access to priests, and it was the catechists who sustained the faith of the nation.