By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday called for the integral human development of all in Madagascar - no one excluded - in a spirit of brotherhood, sharing, mutual help, and solidarity.
He made the call in his first speech on Madagascan soil at the presidential palace in the capital, Antananarivo, when he addressed the country’s authorities, representatives of the civil society and the diplomatic corps.
Speaking in Italian, he pledged the collaboration of the country’s Catholic Church with other Christian confessions, various religions, and all sectors of civil society in this task.
He began by commending the principle of “fihavanana”, a Malagasy word in the Preamble to the Constitution, which “evokes the spirit of sharing, mutual help and solidarity” and the “importance of family, friendship and goodwill between people and with nature”. Saying that fihavanana reveals the “soul” of the Malagasy people, he urged that it be recognized, esteemed, and appreciated.
Speaking of politics, the Pope said it is a challenge for politicians to use their office and responsibility to serve and protect their fellow citizens, particularly the most vulnerable. In this regard, Pope Saint Paul VI rightly said that the development of a nation “cannot be restricted to economic growth alone”.
“To be authentic, it must be integral; it must foster the development of each person and of the whole person," he said.
Corruption, inequality, exclusion
Pope Francis thus encouraged all to “fight with strength and determination against all endemic forms of corruption and speculation that increase social disparity, and to confront the situations of great instability and exclusion that always create conditions of inhumane poverty”.
He called for Madagascar's civil authorities to guarantee a just division of income and an integral development of all, particularly the poorest.
Our common home
Integral human development, the Pope pointed out, cannot be possible without showing consideration and care for our common home. Quoting his encyclical “Laudato si”, he said, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”
He lamented that Madagascar’s rich plant and animal biodiversity is particularly threatened by excessive deforestation, from which only a few make a profit. He warned that the deterioration of this biodiversity compromises the future of the country and of the earth, our common home.
While lamenting forest fires, poaching, cutting down of valuable woodlands, contraband, and illegal activities that endanger plant and animal biodiversity, he stressed the importance of creating jobs and activities that generate income while protecting the environment and help people to emerge from poverty.
“In a word,” he said, “there can be no true ecological approach or effective efforts to safeguard the environment without the attainment of a social justice capable of respecting the right to the common destination of earth’s goods, not only of present generations but also of those yet to come.”
While commending the help extended by the international community to Madagascar, the Pope said this aid must respect local values, ways of life, and the expectations of citizens. In this way, it is possible to ensure that the aid will not be the sole guarantee of a country’s development. The people itself will progressively take charge and become the artisan of its own future, he said.
In this task, Pope Francis held out Blessed Victoire Rasoamanarivo of Madagascar as a model, saying “her witness of love for this land and its traditions, her service to the poor as a sign of her faith in Jesus Christ, show us the path that we too are called to pursue.”
The Pope pledged the readiness of the Catholic Church in Madagascar to collaborate with other Christians, followers of other faiths, and civil society to contribute to the dawn of a true fraternity to foster an integral human development, without excluding anyone.