Pope in Madagascar insists 'poverty is not inevitable'

Hundreds of thousands flock to Pope Francis Madagascar mass

Huge crowds attend Pope's Mass in Madagascar

The project is the brainchild of an Argentine priest who was so overwhelmed by the abject poverty of Madagascar that he set about creating ways for the poor to earn a living.

"As you know, the very last forests are menaced by forest fires, poaching, the unrestricted chopping down of important woodlands", he said. People who focus only on themselves might feel safe for a while, but they end up "becoming bitter, grumbling, without life".

Over the weekend in Madagascar, Pope Francis greeted packed stadiums full of celebrating locals, spoke to crowds numbering up to 1 million people and was embraced by numerous country's youth, who traveled and waited for hours to catch a glimpse of him during his trip to the country. "It has been an education in the values handed down by those first families who took a risk with Father Opeka - the values of hard work, discipline, honesty, self-respect and respect for others".

Pope Francis and Vincentian Father Pedro Opeka in Akamasoa, the "City of Friendship" in Madagascar.

In the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, on September 7, Francis called on local authorities to take more responsible care of the planet's resources for the good "not only of present generations, but also of those yet to come", he said.

Speaking in the Akamasoa auditorium, Pope Francis said the community and its various activities are a sign of the reality that God lives among the poor, and it is a "tangible sign" of his love for them.

Over the last 30 years, an organization founded by Opeka, whose parents emigrated to Argentina from Slovenia, has built homes for 25,000 people, 100 schools, six clinics and two football stadiums across the island nation.

"Corruption and inequality outrage us", said Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana, addressing the pope in his welcome speech. "Never yield to the temptation of settling for an easy life or withdrawing into yourself".

God's plan for humanity involves community, mutual support, sharing and caring for each other and for the earth, Pope Francis said.

Then he went to the quarry.

Thousands of people gathered in front of the monument "Mary Queen of Peace", where Francis is to celebrate a mass, shouted with joy as Francis landed at the island's worldwide airport. "We hope one day there will be more justice for the poor".

The pope was met with massive enthusiasm at every stop during the second leg of his trip to Africa, and the young people who gathered for the vigil made every effort to embrace and touch the pope when he threw himself into their midst.

"Akamasoa is a revolt against poverty, it is a revolt against inevitability", Opeka told The Associated Press ahead of the pope's visit.

"Your handsome island of Madagascar is wealthy in plant and animal biodiversity, still this treasure is specially threatened by excessive deforestation, from which some income", Pope Francis told authorities and diplomats on Saturday. It says 14,000 children have passed through its schools.

The pope also prayed for owners and managers, that they would pay their workers a just wage and ensure them dignified working conditions.

Latest News