On the eve of Pope Francis’ visit to Madagascar, the Provincial of Madagascar, Fr. Fulgence Ratsimbazafy, shares about the atmosphere in the country, and the prayer that dwells in his heart.
“It’s just days now before Pope Francis arrives in Madagascar. The people are really excited and impatient to see the Pope during his apostolic visit to the Great Island. This significant and historic event for the country dominates the headlines of all news media - national, traditional, and social. Everyone from all walks of life – in the streets, market places, offices, buses, and churches – talks about this pivotal event in the lives of the people and the country.
The government and the Catholic Church have collaborated very closely to make sure that everything proceeds smoothly before, during, and after the Pope’s visit. Prayers have been said; articles have been written; information has been shared. Vatican flags and Pope Francis’ portrait decorate the streets, the buildings, and the main public spaces.
People are impatient to see this great missionary and pilgrim for peace, hope, and sustainable ecology. The first two - peace and hope - are the themes of the Pope’s visit to Madagascar. People really regard the Pope as a “sower of peace and hope”. Especially in his encyclical Laudato si’ the Pope stresses the importance of an integral ecology. This makes the Pope’s visit all the more meaningful for a country known for the unique wealth and beauty of its flora and fauna. This visit is a foretaste of how significant the imminent Synod on the Amazonian region, which will take place in Rome in October, really is.
I pray that the Pope’s visit to Madagascar will enkindle and instill in its people a love and respect for the beauty and richness of their varied environment. I wish also that, through the message of the Pope, people may become ever more aware of their important responsibility to care for their “common house”. Our lives are interconnected like a web; everything is interdependent. African wisdom teaches us that “I exist because you are”. In other words, we humans exist because of the totality of creation around us - our lives are not possible in any other context. May the visit of Pope Francis not only unite the people and the nation, but also reconcile people to their environment, which is threatened and facing destruction. In this task, collaboration involving all the sections of our society is more urgent than ever.
May this Pope’s visit and his message fill the Malagasy people with enthusiasm, energy, and inspiration. May it motivate them to face and respond to the many existential challenges – the suffering, lack of education, poverty, corruption, and insecurity – which so many face in their daily lives. Pope Francis visits the country as a “sower of peace and hope.” May the country respond to the Malagasy people’s eager thirst for a holistic and durable development. May Pope Francis’s model of servant leadership reinvigorate and inspire the Malagasy people and their leaders at this significant moment in their history.”