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How was Pope Francis’ visit to Mozambique?

Mass in Maputo [06.09.2019], screenshot from Youtube.

Pope Francis visited Mozambique from 4 to 6 September, where he held a mass for 80,000 people in the Zimpeto National Stadium, in the capital Maputo, as well as had meetings with authorities.

The country had not received a papal visit since September 1988, when John Paul II came.

Before his arrival in Maputo, Pope Francis shared a message of reconciliation and peace for Mozambique:

Dentro de poucos dias, terá início a minha visita ao vosso país e, apesar de não poder deslocar-me para além da capital, o meu coração alcança e abraça a todos vós, com um lugar especial para quantos vivem atribulados. Desde já vos queria deixar esta certeza: estais todos na minha oração. Anseio pelo momento de vos encontrar.

Tal como eu recebi (e agradeço!) o convite do senhor Presidente e dos meus irmãos Bispos para ir ter convosco, assim estendo o convite a todos vós, para vos unirdes à minha oração a fim de que o Deus e Pai de todos consolide a reconciliação, reconciliação fraterna em Moçambique e na África inteira, única esperança para uma paz firme e duradoura.

In a few days’ time, my visit to your country will begin and, although I cannot travel beyond the capital, my heart reaches out to and embraces all of you, with a special place for those living in distress. Right away, I would like to leave you with this certainty: you are all in my prayers. I am eager to meet you.

Just as I have received (and I thank you!) the invitation of the president and my bishop brothers to come to you, so I extend the invitation to all of you to join my prayer so that the god and father of all may consolidate reconciliation, fraternal reconciliation in Mozambique and throughout Africa, the only hope for a firm and lasting peace.

After landing at Maputo International Airport on the night of the 4th, the pope drove through the city’s streets in the popemobile, among the crowd who were waving and taking photos and videos.

The temperature that day was of 31 degrees during the day and 27 at night.

We have talked to volunteers who helped organize the audience.

Volunteers | Photo by Dércio Tsandzana, used with permission.

One of them was called Arcénio, 21 years old, a member of one of the churches in Matola, a city near Maputo. He said:

Eu estou aqui para servir ao povo. Fui escolhido na minha paróquia para ajudar a organizar a visita, e espero que seja um momento de paz e mais reconciliação para Moçambique. Estou feliz.

I am here to serve the people. I was chosen in my parish to help organize the visit, and I hope it is a moment of peace and more reconciliation for Mozambique. I’m happy.

Another volunteer was Helton, 19, a member of a Catholic church in central Maputo. When asked about the visit’s impact on the election, he replied:

Essa visita surge para abençoar a paz em Moçambique, e para mim não há relação com a política. Eu estou para servir ao Papa, por isso aceitei estar aqui hoje.

This visit comes to bless the peace in Mozambique, and for me there is no connection with politics. I am [here] to serve the pope, so I agreed to be here today.

Some commentators had warned that the visit, so close to the general election scheduled for 15 October, could interfere with the campaign.

Before the visit, the auxiliary bishop of Maputo Archdiocese, Antonio Juliasse, told the press that it should not be used politically:

Dentro do respeito de uns para outros, não se devem usar estes locais para momentos políticos. Não apenas verbalmente, mas devemos também ter o cuidado em não sermos portadores daquilo que nos pode dividir, em termos de roupa e outros materiais.

In respecting each other, these places should not be used for political purposes. Not only verbally, but we must also be careful not to be bearers of what can divide us, regarding clothing and other materials.

The professor of economics and researcher at the Institute of Social and Economic Studies (IESE), António Francisco, thinks that the pope's visit will be politically beneficial, especially for the party in power, FRELIMO. He wrote on Facebook:

Talvez um dia, quando escrever suas memórias, o meu xará esclareça porque ousou visitar Moçambique no início da campanha eleitoral de 2019. Nessa altura, espero que nos confidencie quem foi o anjo da guarda que lhe garantiu que nesta Paróquia do Índico os resultados eleitorais continuam a depender mais de quem conta do que de quem vota.

Perhaps one day, when he writes his memoirs, my namesake will clarify why he ventured to visit Mozambique at the beginning of the 2019 election campaign. At that time, I hope he will tell us who the guardian angel was who assured him that in this Indic Parish the election results still depend more on those who count than those who vote.

Pope Francis greets the crowd on 4 September 2019. Photo by Dércio Tsandzana, used with permission.

The next day, 5 September, we left in the morning to better position ourselves in one of the streets where he was going to be. In the first few hours, we were able to photograph the popemobile, but it was empty.

Popemobile without Pope Francis, 5 September 2019. Photo by Dércio Tsandzana, used with permission.

We continued waiting there. The pope came almost two hours later in a standard vehicle.

The streets of Maputo waiting to receive Papa Francisco. Photo by Dércio Tsandzana, used with permission

Pope Francis greets the crowd, 5 September 2019. Photo by Dércio Tsandzana, used with permission.

We tried to find out the reasons and we were told that the pope would be going to meet the president, and then he would leave in his usual means of transport for an inter-religious meeting with youths at the Maxquene stadium.

Pope Francis in an inter-religious meeting with young Mozambicans. Photo by Dércio Tsandzana, used with permission.

We talked about this meeting with Victor Fazenda, a Catholic and activist, who told us:

Ao longo da entrada do Papa ao pavilhão, logo que foi anunciada a sua entrada ao pódio, os presentes diziam e repetiam, provavelmente mais de quinze vezes, a palavra reconciliação, com as mãos sobrepostas, isto é, uma por cima da outra.

During the pope's entrance to the venue, as soon as his entrance to the podium was announced, those present said and repeated, probably more than fifteen times, the word reconciliation, with their hands superimposed, that is, one on top of the other.

Arlindo António, a Maputo city resident, used Twitter to highlight Pope Francis’ speech to young people:

A youth to reinvent itself. This is the great dilemma. We want a youth that is an alternative and that gains its own space. Above all criticism. We need a change of system. Without youth, there is no present, and even less a tomorrow

On 6 September there was a public mass in one of the largest stadiums in the country, which reached its maximum capacity. It was not possible to access the venue to record or capture images. After Mozambique, Pope Francis went to Madagascar, and then to Mauritius.

During the mass in Maputo, he addressed several issues and, without mentioning the elections in particular, said:

Nenhum país tem futuro se o que o une é a vingança e o ódio. (…) Não há melhor maneira de guardar a esperança do que permanecer unidos, para que todos aqueles motivos que a sustentam se consolidem sempre mais num futuro de reconciliação e de paz em Moçambique.

No country has a future if what unites it is revenge and hatred. (…) There is no better way to keep hope than to remain united, so that all those things that sustain it can be increasingly strengthened in a future of reconciliation and peace in Mozambique

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