Pope Francis (r) attends a welcome ceremony flanked by Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi upon his arrival at the Maputo International Airport on Sept. 4 in Maputo, Mozambique. (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)
The Holy Father addressed civic leaders and diplomats in the first address of his six-day, three-country visit.
MAPUTO, Mozambique — Pope Francis lauded Mozambique’s rulers Wednesday for striving to maintain peace after a bloody civil war, and urged them to build a “culture of encounter,” foster “equal opportunities,” and serve the poor in order to preserve such peace.
In his first speech on his visit to the southern African country, the Holy Father also spoke of his “closeness and solidarity” with Mozambique after two catastrophic cyclones — Idai and Kenneth — struck the country in March and April, and urged greater efforts to protect the environment.
Addressing civic leaders and diplomats at the presidential palace in Maputo, he said he was personally grateful for efforts made towards peace in the country ever since a 1992 peace agreement in Rome that ended a crippling 15-year civil war.
He also welcomed a further peace-accord signed last month following recent clashes, saying it was indicative of efforts to ensure peace is “once more the norm” and that reconciliation is the “best path” to confront current challenges.
“You have refused to let human relationships be governed by vengeance and repression,” the Pope said, “or allow hatred and violence to have the final word.”
Recalling that peace is “not merely absence of war but a tireless commitment,” he said this is especially true of a country’s leaders who have a responsibility to uphold human dignity so people can “see themselves as the principal protagonists of the destiny of their nation.”
He warned that “without equal opportunities,” different forms of “aggression and conflict will find fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.”
But he welcomed how peace in Mozambique has led to development in various areas, such as education and health care, adding that a “culture of peace” requires the participation of every new generation in a “culture of encounter” in which others are acknowledged, bonds created and bridges built.
A country’s “true wealth,” he said, can be found in the “service of others, especially the poor” whether they be the “homeless, unemployed workers, farmers without land to cultivate.” Such are the “foundations for a future of hope, because it will be a future of dignity!” he said. “These are the weapons of peace.”
Turning to safeguarding creation, he said the “protection of land is also the protection of life,” and warned against exploitation. “A culture of peace implies a productive, sustainable and inclusive development where all Mozambicans can feel this land is theirs,” he noted.
The Pope ended by reminding Mozambique’s leaders of their role in creating “a magnificent work of art” of peace and reconciliation.
The Pope said in closing it was his prayer, that in communion with his brother bishops, he could “help make peace, reconciliation and hope reign definitively in your midst.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
He is covering Pope Francis’ six-day apostolic voyage
to Mozambique, Mauritius and Madagascar for EWTN News.