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Pope Francis’ visit to Mauritius. Félicité (Caritas): “Pilgrim of peace in a multiracial and multi-confessional country”

"Ours is a multiracial, multi-confessional country. The presence of Pope Francis among us as a pilgrim of peace will further strengthen the unity of the Mauritians. Patrizia Adèle Félicité, Secretary General of Caritas Ile Maurice, speaks to SIR from Port Louis, capital of the Republic of Mauritius. The Pope will visit the island nation on 9 September, the last leg of the Apostolic journey to Africa from 4 to 10 September, that includes visits to Mozambique and Madagascar

credits: Caritas Ile Maurice

The family, the declining number of vocations and the ageing of the clergy constitute a major concern for the Catholic population of Mauritius. The island is known worldwide for the beauty of its tropical shores, with its growing tourism industry. Pope Francis will visit the island on 9 September, the last leg of the Apostolic journey from 4 to 10 September that will take him also to Mozambique and Madagascar. In the mid morning the Pope will be in the capital Port Louis, the only diocese on the island nation, headed by Cardinal Maurice E. Piat,  where the Holy Father will celebrate Mass at the Monument to Mary Queen of Peace, followed by a meeting with the bishops, local authorities, and then proceed to the shrine of Père Laval, the Spiritan missionary who brought the faith among the natives in the 19th century, proclaimed Blessed by John Paul II in 1979. Pope Woityla visited the island in 1989. “Major preparations are under way, coupled by great expectations,” said Patrizia Adèle Félicité, Secretary General of Caritas Ile Maurice from Port Louis. “People will be arriving even from the Seychelles and South Africa. Ours is a multiracial, multi-confessional country. The presence of Pope Francis among us as a pilgrim of peace will further strengthen the unity of the Mauritian population. The island has 1.250 million inhabitants, half of whom are Hindus. Catholics account for 28%, while Muslims represent less than a fifth. The official language is English but most people commonly speak Mauritian Creole. French is spoken in ecclesial institutions.  Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has maintained an annual economic growth rate of around 5%-6%, making it one of the African countries with the highest GDP per capita, a major exception in the region. Thus, the poverties addressed by Caritas are very different from those found in the rest of the Continent.

A politically, socially stable Country. “Fortunately, Mauritius is a stable country politically and socially – points out the Caritas Secretary General -. There are no major problems or conflicts amongst the population. There are not many poor people but pockets of poverty exist as a result of the pay gap between rich and poor.” Caritas activity primarily focuses on development and support to people and families in difficulty, in partnership with institutions and private enterprises. It is present in all 47 parishes of the diocese, providing services and assistance of various kinds.

The Catholic Church runs nurseries, centres for the elderly, the disabled, the sick, drug addicts and alcoholics.

“We assist thousands of people, we provide accommodation to those who cannot afford high rents, we help families and children.” Poverty has multiple causes: drugs, alcoholism, lack of education. “English is the official language in schools,” she explained, “but many children only speak Creole and have difficulties. There are jobs but often companies delocalize or resort to cheaper foreign labour.”

Popular Catholicism. “The Catholic Church – continues Félicité – is known and recognized for her contribution to Mauritian society, especially with regard to the education and accompaniment of the most disadvantaged.”

“We work extensively with families and believers belonging to other religions and Christian denominations.”

In fact, in Mauritius there is a Council of Religions. The island is home to a very popular form of Catholicism, rooted in its ancient colonial past. The origins of the Church date back to the 17th century with the first Mass was celebrated by the Jesuits in 1616. In the 19th century, Père Laval worked extensively with slaves, promoting the enculturation of Christianity into local traditions. The texts and songs of the liturgies are in the Creole language. “The clergy are ageing and there are not many vocations – she said – but we are working well with young people, who actively participate in ecclesial life. There used to be European missionaries, now they are mostly Malagasy and Asian.”

“Looking forward to welcoming him with our hearts.” All parishes, associations and movements are involved in the preparations for 9 September. News media have been reporting on the event for some time already. “We are fond of Pope Francis’ simple and direct approach, his concern for the poor. We are preparing to receive him with our hearts”, declared Patricia Adèle Félicité: “We are very happy to be able to receive a Pope who devotes such great attention to the peripheries of the world. We are ready to embrace his messages, to pursue with renewed vigour and motivation our activity among the poorest.”

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Pubblicato da Caritas Ile Maurice su Domenica 7 luglio 2019

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