By Vatican News
When the founder of the Akamasoa Association, Fr Pédro Opeka, invited Pope Francis to visit the Community, he never really believed the Pope would come. Even though Jesuit Father Mario Bergoglio had been Fr Pedrò’s theology professor back home in Argentina.
But Pope Francis did come.
He met with many members of the Association, and listened as 13 year-old Fanny told him how she came to Akamasoa six years ago, how her life has changed since then, how she studies, and looks forward to putting the Pope’s message into practice.
The Pope’s message included an invitation to remain faithful “to the values of hard work, discipline, honesty, self-respect and respect for others”.
The Pope stressed how this experience has helped them understand that “God’s dream is not only for our personal development, but essentially for the development of the community, and that there is no worse form of slavery… than to live only for ourselves”.
Poverty is not inevitable
In its 30 years of activity, the Akamosa Association has helped create housing for over 25,000 people, developing 18 villages, complete with dispensaries and schools that provide education for some 14,000 children.
“Every corner of these neighbourhoods, every school or dispensary”, said Pope Francis, “is a song of hope that refutes and silences any suggestion that some things are “inevitable”. Let us say it forcefully: poverty is not inevitable!”
Built with your own hands
The Pope described this City of Friendship as one “that you built with your own hands. “The building blocks of teamwork and a sense of family and community have enabled you to rebuild, with patience and skill, your confidence not only in yourselves but also in one another”, said Pope Francis.
The Pope invited the young people present never to stop “fighting the baneful effects of poverty”. “This great work accomplished by your elders, is now yours to carry forward”, he said.
A ray of light
Finally, the Pope prayed that this ray of light will spread, “so that we can enact models of development that support the fight against poverty and social exclusion, on the basis of trust, education, hard work and commitment”.
For these, concluded Pope Francis, “are always indispensable for the dignity of the human person”.