Million turn out for Pope Francis Madagascar mass

Elias Hubbard
September 11, 2019

After mass the pontiff will go to Akamasoa, a metropolis based by Argentian priest Father Pedro, who has lifted 1000's of Malagasy waste-pickers out of poverty.

'How tough it's some distance to dispute him (Jesus) if we be conscious to title the dominion of heaven with our personal agenda or... abuse the title of God or of faith to make clear acts of violence, segregation and even assassinate, ' he said.

Urging worshippers to "construct historical past in fraternity and solidarity", he spoke out in opposition to "practices that result in the tradition of privilege and exclusion".

Francis began his day with a Mass on a dusty field in the capital, where the faithful who attended an evening vigil spent a cold, windy night securing spots for the Sunday service. The World Bank says 75% of its 24 million people live on less than $2 a day; only 13% of the population has access to electricity.

Early Sunday morning, in Antananarivo's Andravoahangy church, pastor Jean-Yves Ravoajanahary had briefed 5,000 people on the two-hour trek they would have to make to get to Soamandrakizay stadium. "At this time pickpockets and bandits are out to mug people", he told AFP.

One by one the groups started the journey, huddled together and singing praise to the Virgin Mary.

Hery Saholimanana left his home within the early hours with three members of the family. 'I'm afraid of arriving after the six o'clock entry limit, ' said the 23-year old IT student, walking briskly. Many had already arrange tents on the outskirts of the town on Friday, festooned with posters of the pontiff.

'We are drained, but or now now not it's rate making all these sacrifices to be conscious the pope with our have eyes and receive his blessing, ' he said.

"In Akamasoa we have shown that poverty is not a fatality, but that it was created by a lack of social sensibility from political leaders who have turned their backs on the people who elected them". REUTERS/Yara Nardi Pope Francis attends a prayer vigil with youth at the Soamandrakizay Mess site in Antananarivo, Madagascar, September 7, 2019.

Thousands of former slum dwellers, many of them children, gave the pope an ecstatic welcome, leaving him seemingly overwhelmed by the experience, who only hours earlier defended the poor in the homily of a huge open-air Mass.

The last pontiff to visit Madagascar was Pope Saint John Paul II 30 years ago.

The day prior to this Francis made an impassioned plea to Madagascans to present protection to the Indian Ocean's irregular atmosphere from "unsuitable deforestation".

The Akamasoa project, which is funded by donors around the world and recognized by the Madagascar government, says it has built some 4,000 homes in more than 20 villages serving some 25,000 people since its foundation in 1989.

Weeks after a spike in fires in the Amazon, the Argentine pontiff told his hosts they should "create jobs and money-making activities which respect the environment and help people escape poverty".

"As we look around us, how many men and women, young people and children are suffering and in utter need".

On Monday, Francis travels to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius on the final day of his weeklong, three-nation Africa trip.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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