“What must one do to be a good Christian?.” “The answer is clear. We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount.” The Pope celebrated Holy Mass in Port Louis, on the esplanade that surrounds the Monument of Mary Queen of Peace. While over 100,000 people – arrived from across the Indian Ocean – acclaim him by waving palm branches, he cites the “apostle of Mauritian unity”, Blessed Jacques-Désiré Laval, “so greatly venerated in these lands”, whose relics are on the altar. It’s a national holiday in the Mauritian islands, and everyone flocks to see the successor of Peter who pays homage to the Blessed whom Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists consider the father of the nation. In a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural land known worldwide for its tourist attractions, the homage chosen by the Mauritians to mark this historic day is truly in “Laudato sì” style: in fact, 100,000 trees will be planted in response to Bergoglio’s call for an integral ecology, blessed by the Pope in the second and final public event of the day and of the entire journey to Africa, after the stops in Mozambique and Madagascar. The address to authorities ends with an invitation to
“move forward with that constructive approach that works for an integral ecological conversion”,
a central goal in Bergoglio’s Encyclical, “that seeks not only to avoid terrible climatic phenomena or extreme natural catastrophes, but also to promote a change in the way we live, so that economic growth can really benefit everyone, without the risk of causing ecological catastrophes or serious social crises.” The Holy Father’s last speech in Africa, marked by political emphases, begins with a reference to the decisive question, in what Bergoglio defines as “an epochal change” and not an epoch of change: migrations.
“To take up the challenge of welcoming and protecting those migrants who today come looking for work and, for many of them, better conditions of life for their families”, is the imperative.
“Your people’s DNA – the Pope said from the Presidential Palace of Port Louis – preserves the memory of those movements of migration that brought your ancestors to this island and led them to be open to differences, to integrate them and to promote them for the benefit of all”: “Make an effort to welcome them, following the example of your ancestors, who welcomed one another. Be protagonists and defenders of a true culture of encounter that enables migrants (and everyone) to be respected in their dignity and their rights”, is the heart of Francis’ message. For the Pope, the island nation of Mauritius bears evidence to the fact that
“it is possible to achieve lasting peace when we start with the conviction that diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a ‘reconciled diversity’. This in turn serves as a foundation for the opportunity to build true fellowship within the greater human family, without feeling the need to marginalize, exclude or reject anyone.”
In order to continue being a “haven of peace” Mauritius must preserve “the democratic tradition that took root following your independence.” “Be examples to the men and women who count on you, and in particular to the young”: is the Pope’s appeal to political leaders, who are also called “to combat all forms of corruption.” The Pope pointed out that “that economic growth does not always profit everyone and even sets aside a certain number of people, particularly the young.” The Pope’s encouragement is “to promote an economic policy focused on people and in a position to favour a better division of income, the creation of jobs and the integral promotion of the poor”, and “not to yield to the temptation of an idolatrous economic model that feels the need to sacrifice human lives on the altar of speculation and profit alone, considering only immediate advantage to the detriment of protecting the poor, the environment and its resources.”
“Young people are the primary mission”,
is Francis’ recommendation in the Mass that opened the day, in the wake of the special attention devoted to “our young people” – the population majority – highlighted in all the legs of the journey to Africa. We must learn “to acknowledge the presence of the young and to make room for them in our communities and in our society”, the Pope said. “It is a hard thing to say, but, despite the economic growth your country has known in recent decades, it is the young who are suffering the most. They suffer from unemployment, which not only creates uncertainty about the future, but also prevents them from believing that they play a significant part in your shared history”, the cry of alarm: “Uncertainty about the future often forces them to feel that they have live their life on the fringes of society; it leaves them vulnerable and helpless before new forms of slavery in this twenty-first century.” “Let us not deprive ourselves of the young face of the Church and of society. Let us not allow those who deal in death to rob the first fruits of this land!” is the central appeal of the homily, with a denunciation: “our young people, and all those who, like them, feel voiceless, simply living from day to day.”