ROME – Showing that the Energizer bunny of popes has no intention of slowing down, the Vatican confirmed on Wednesday that Pope Francis will visit Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius Sept. 4-10.
This will be the pontiff’s fourth visit to Africa, after going to Uganda, Kenya and Central African Republic in 2015, Egypt in 2017 and his upcoming March 30-31 trip to Morocco.
Mozambique and Madagascar are among the world’s poorest countries.
Francis’s new trip was confirmed by the Vatican’s interim spokesman, Alessandro Gissoti, who released a statement confirming the date and the three cities the pope will visit – Maputo, Antananarivo and Port Luis.
The full program hasn’t been released yet although the themes and logos for each country have, with “peace” as a common thread.
In the case of Mozambique, the logo includes a dove, and the explanation given is that it symbolizes peace, which is “very necessary” in the country, as it is still feeling the effects of its 1977-1992 civil war. The motto for the visit is “Hope, Peace and Reconciliation.”
The country’s President Filipe Nyusi said on Wednesday that the pope’s visit would be “an inspiration and an encouragement” to help “rebuild a prosperous, united and peaceful” nation.
Madagascar, for its part, presents Francis as a “sower of peace and hope,” in a logo that includes the images of several martyrs killed for their faith.
Argentine Father Pedro Opeka, a missionary who’s been in Madagascar for over 50 years, met with the pope last year. Allegedly, Francis said he wanted to visit Akamasoa, a foundation Opeka created in 1989 in Antananarivo.
Reclaiming massive garbage dumping sites on the hills that surround the capital, he virtually built an entire city with thousands of volunteers, divided into 18 neighborhoods that give dignified brick homes to approximately 23,000 people.
“We’ve been able to show that poverty is not fate,” he told Crux during his visit to Rome. “But you have to believe that. You have to immerse yourself in the middle of them and stay with them.”
The island nation of Mauritius will await the pontiff as a “pilgrim of peace.”
All three countries have a strong Christian presence, as well as a combination of indigenous beliefs. In Mauritius, close to half of the population is Hindu.
Francis, a man who has said he didn’t like to travel, has a full schedule this year: he’s already been to Panama and the United Arab Emirates. This weekend he’s headed to Morocco; to Bulgaria and North Macedonia May 5-7; Romania in late May; and though there’s no date yet, the pope has confirmed he’s going to Japan in November.