Pope Francis’ three-nation African tour has started in Mozambique, Gulf Today reported. The pontiff arrives at capital Maputo on Wednesday.
Papal tour of Indian Ocean African countries hard hit by poverty, conflict and natural disaster became the most anticipated event for the believers on the continent. Last time, tens of thousands of local Catholics have had an opportunity to see Pope in 1998.
On Friday, the pontiff will end his visit to Mozambique with a mass at the giant Zimpeto Stadium in Maputo. Prior to kicking-of the tour, Pope Francis uploaded the video message, in which he stressed the need for “fraternal reconciliation in Mozambique and throughout Africa, which is the only hope for a solid and lasting peace.”
Earlier, the head of the Catholic Church has been expressing the concern about violence in Mozambique. During the tour, he is expected to address the country’s fragile peace process, the devastation caused by two back-to-back cyclones early this year, and the upcoming general election.
For many believers, the papal visit will be a good omen for a country in crisis. The capital has been spruced up for the visit, with the government spending 300,000 euros ($330,000) for the trip, according to Foreign Minister Jose Pacheco, including repairs to Maputo’s cathedral and city roads.
Pope urged the African believers to keep the faith
Pope Francis will also visit the large Indian Ocean island of Madagascar and its much smaller neighbour Mauritius. His choice of some of the world’s poorest nations is seen by commentators as an act of solidarity from a cleric who was a frequent presence in the shantytowns of Argentina.
Known as the “pope of the poor” the pontiff will only have time to visit Maputo while in Mozambique, much to the disappointment of those in the central city of Beira where Cyclone Idai killed at least 600 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in March.
Many locals appear happy to splurge on pope-branded regalia.