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Madagascar on the eve of the visitation of Pope Francis, apostle/prophet for peace, hope and integral ecology

by Fr Fulgence Ratsimbazafy SJ,

It’s just days now from Pope Francis’s arrival in Madagascar and people are really excited and impatient to see the Pope during his apostolic visitation to the Great Island. This huge and historic event for the country dominates the headlines of all news media - national, traditional and social. Everyone from all walks of life talks in the streets, market places, offices, buses, and churches about this powerful event in the life of the people and the country.

The organizers have been busy working day and night mobilizing all spheres of life to ensure the success of the visit. Many people have volunteered to help in the organization. The government and the Catholic Church through the Episcopal Conference have collaborated very closely to make sure everything goes well before, during and after the Pope’s visitation. Prayers have been said; articles have been written.; information has been shared. Papal effigies are on sale. Vatican flags, fanions, and Pope Francis’s picture decorate the streets, buildings and the main public spaces.

People are impatient to see this great missionary and pilgrim for peace, hope and integral ecology. In fact, the two first values of peace and hope are the themes of the Pope’s visit in Madagascar. As a matter of fact, people see the Pope as a “sower of peace and hope”. Especially because of his encyclical “Laudato si” in which he appeals to the importance of an integral approach to ecology, the Pope’s visit becomes more and more meaningful for a country mostly known for its uniqueness, richness, and beauty in terms of flora and fauna. Madagascar is famous for many researchers for its specific biodiversity thanks to its endemic species that exist nowhere else in the world. This visit gives us a foretaste of the significance and importance of the up-coming Amazon Synod which will meet in Rome from October 6 to October 27, 2019.

I pray that the Pope’s visitation to Madagascar will ignite and instill in its people a love and respect for the beauty and richness of their environment in all its various forms. I wish also that through the papal messages people may become more and more aware of the importance of the responsibility we have to care for our “common house”. Our life is interconnected like a web; everything is interdependent. A saying from African wisdom tells us that “I exist because you are”. In other words, we humans exist because of the totality of creation around us - otherwise, our life is not possible. May Pope Francis’s visit unite and reconcile not only the people and the nation, but also reconcile the people to their environment which faces threats and destruction due to endless bushfires every year and the savage and unlawful exploitation of the country’s finite natural resources as if they were unlimited. Politicians, government, civil society leaders, and of course all citizens should take responsibility for saving this sanctuary of the world’s common good. As we say, “prevention is better than cure ”. For this reason, education through advocacy and awareness are all- important. That is why collaboration with and from all spheres of life in our society is more than ever urgent.

May this Pope’s visitation and the messages it brings fill the Malagasy people with enthusiasm, energy, inspiration and the motivation to face and to respond to the many challenges of life – suffering, lack of education, poverty, corruption, and insecurity – that they have to live in their daily life. Pope Francis, seen as a “sower of peace and hope” during his journey in the “Red Island”- another name to describe Madagascar- is responding to the thirst and eagerness of the Malagasy people for holistic and durable development. That means looking and working for a better, worthier, and suitable life for all of creation. May Pope Francis’s model and example of servant leadership reinvigorate and inspire the Malagasy people and their leaders at this turning point in their history.