On 27 March the press office of the Holy See announced the date of the visit by Pope Francis to Mozambique – from 4 to 10 September 2019. In addition to visiting this country, which was recently savagely struck by Cyclone Idai, the Holy Father will also be visiting the neighbouring countries of Madagascar and Mauritius.

The Church in Mozambique will be awaiting the papal visit with great expectation. Bishop Adriano Langa of the diocese of  Inhambane in the south of Mozambique, explained to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) that back in September 2018 the President of the Republic of Mozambique had paid a visit to the Vatican and had invited Pope Francis to visit his country, thereby reaffirming the invitation that the bishops had already previously extended. The Pope had replied “yes”, if “I am in good health”. Now his visit has finally been confirmed.

Mgr. Adriano Langa, bishop of the diocese of  Inhambane in the south of Mozambique.

Mgr. Adriano Langa, bishop of the diocese of  Inhambane in the south of Mozambique.

This will be the second papal visit to Mozambique, following the historic visit by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1988. “We are all ready to organise the visit and also to prepare the faithful for it. It is something we greatly wish for. Who would not want the Pope to come to visit his country”? Bishop Langa asked.

For his part, Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna of Beira, the coastal city in central eastern Mozambique which suffered so terribly from the consequences of the national disaster of cyclone Idai, quickly passed on the news to his faithful in a communique that was also sent to ACN: “Today, 27 March, we received the happy news that  Pope Francis will be visiting our country in the coming month of September. Although the visit was already planned before the passage of the cyclone, many people are now asking themselves if the Pope has decided to come to Beira in order to visit and console us. We are hoping that this will happen.”

The martyrs of Guiúa

For many Mozambicans their dream is that the papal agenda will include a trip to the catechetical centre in Guiúa. Although this seems rather unlikely, given that it is in the diocese of Inhambane, which is a long way from the capital Maputo, the central focus of the visit by Pope Francis. This catechetical centre records the history of the martyrdom of over 20 Mozambican catechists here who were victims of one of the most violent incidents in the long civil war. “The diocesan phase of the beatification process has just concluded, this year in March”, explains Bishop Langa, emphasising that Guiúa is now a noted landmark in the Christian life in the country. “Guiúa has a shrine dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, as a memorial of this dramatic event involving the massacre of the catechists, so that it is now a place of pilgrimage”, he continues. Thousands of people come to this spot every year, demonstrating the enormous devotion of the Mozambican people to the Virgin Mary. “We ask Mary to carry her sons in her arms to the altar”, the bishop adds. It is expected that the Holy See will soon recognise the catechists of Guiúa as martyrs. “The expectations are very high” Bishop Langa says.

Construction of the chapel in favor of "St. John the Baptist Macharre", Parish of Santa Isabel de Guiúa.

Construction of the chapel in favor of “St. John the Baptist Macharre”, Parish of Santa Isabel de Guiúa.

 “Heartfelt thanks to ACN”

Despite the aftermath of the war, the violence and the natural disaster that has recently devastated the country, Mozambique and the Church here continue to demonstrate great vitality, and the diocese of Inhambane is a good example of this. “Vocations are blossoming at our seminary. For the first time since it opened, it has 30 future priests; we have never had so many before. Sadly, though, the house they are lodging in was previously a parish house and has very few rooms”, the bishop explains. The desire to improve the physical structure of the seminary in Inhambane is one of the reasons that have led him to visit the international headquarters of ACN. This is a concrete project, which could now become reality, thanks to the generosity of ACN’s benefactors, a generosity that Bishop Adriano has already experienced in the past with a number of other different aid projects. “I have come to say ‘many thanks’ to all the benefactors who breathe life into this foundation and who also give life to us. For in fact there are many projects we have carried out and many means of transport we have been able to make use of, such as the vehicles we are using in the diocese, which have come from here, from ACN. All of this has been possible thanks to ACN, which is thereby helping us to proclaim the Gospel. Your foundation has given us legs, it has given us arms, it has given us eyes and it has given us a mouth to proclaim the Gospel. For all of this, our heartfelt thanks!”

A priest in Mozambique has given a graphic account of the devastating impact of the cyclone amid reports that up to 1,000 people have been killed.

Speaking in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Father Sandro Faedi, apostolic administrator of Tete, described how people cried for help as the flood waters came towards them. The priest’s personal testimony comes as ACN revealed that it is working with the local Church in the port city of Beira to provide essential aid.

Women and children getting water at a water pump.

Women and children getting water at a water pump.

Father Faedi told the charity: “Beira is no longer a city. It has been destroyed almost entirely.” He continued: “From the airplanes, the city presents itself as a large lake, from which emerge buildings without ceilings. “You don’t see streets, houses, fields. A lot of people have lost their lives. “Above the houses or above the trees, [many people were] asking for help, which nobody heard. “They were carried away by the fury of the rivers entering the city.”

Father Faedi told ACN that the region, which is now mostly under water, has “no telephone, communications and no drinking water”, as 125 mile (200 km) per hour winds, heavy rains and flooded rivers continue to destroy the country’s infrastructure.

With the death toll expecting to rise, he said: “For now, we only pray, ready to give our contribution when the time comes.” The priest’s comments come as Pope Francis expressed his “pain and closeness to those dear people”.

Construction of Chapels destroyed by the cyclone in January 2018, Parish of "Nossa Senhora da Assunção", Netia-Natete.

Construction of Chapels destroyed by the cyclone in January 2018, Parish of “Nossa Senhora da Assunção”, Netia-Natete.

On Wednesday, 20th March, Mozambique starts three days of mourning for the victims. Floods and winds flattened Beira, an ‘economic lung’ of Mozambique, before moving to Malawi and Zimbabwe, affecting more than 2.5 million people.

Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna of Beira told ACN: “The help from ACN will be useful because it will serve to revive the ecclesial presence by confronting immediate expenses such as the acquisition and distribution of plastic tarpaulins, material, etc. (buckets, glasses, plates, etc.) and the logistics for transport.​ “Once again we thank you for your generosity and we will keep you informed.”

 

Peace still has not come to Mozambique. For Bishop Adriano Langa of Inhambane, “the wounds left behind by war are not as easy to close as a tap.” The traces and aftereffects of the many years of armed conflict are still visible throughout the African country. During a meeting held at the international headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Königstein, Germany, Bishop Langa explained that there is still quite a way to go before it will actually be possible to live in peace.

Bishop Adriano Langa of Inhambane.

Bishop Adriano Langa of Inhambane.

“We say that the war continues to claim lives even though the guns have fallen silent,” he said. “We have yet to overcome the aftereffects of the war fought to gain independence from the colonial power, the civil war as well as the political tensions of 2014 to 2015 … and it will take a very long time for them to disappear. It is something that cannot be seen, but still exists.” The civil war in Mozambique, which lasted from 1977 to 1992, cost the lives of almost one million people. Moreover, an estimated five million people were forced to leave their homes and their homeland. In spite of the peace agreement signed in 1992 the spectre of war could never be banished completely.

ACN supports the church in Mozambique with subsistence support to priest and religious sisters as well as with financial aid for formation and building projects.

ACN supports the church in Mozambique with subsistence support to priest and religious sisters as well as with financial aid for formation and building projects.

Jihadist attacks in the North?

As though this were not enough, a wave of violence was unleashed in October of 2017 in the northern part of the country, in the province of Cabo Delgado. Extremely violent attacks were carried out on villages, during which houses were destroyed and people killed. It is estimated that over one hundred and fifty Mozambicans lost their lives during these attacks, but none of the known groups have claimed responsibility for them. This has given rise to all sorts of speculation, including a direct link to radical Islamist groups.

The bishop of Inhambane is aware of the problem. He gave voice to the concerns of the church, “People die. Or their lives are destroyed … When a house or a village is destroyed, life is also destroyed. The Church is concerned and we hope that the situation can be resolved. More than anything, we hope that this will all come to an end. We want the attacks to cease because there has been a great deal of violence and the situation is very difficult.” According to Bishop Adriano Langa, it is important “to offer signs that the Church is right there.”

The civil war in Mozambique, which lasted from 1977 to 1992, cost the lives of almost one million people.

The civil war in Mozambique, which lasted from 1977 to 1992, cost the lives of almost one million people.

Traces of poverty

The civil war has had a dramatic effect on Mozambique: in addition to the numbers of deceased, injured and displaced, the entire country was plunged into underdevelopment. In 1990, while the civil war still raged, Mozambique was considered the poorest country in the world. Today, the prevailing poverty is another sign that the “tap” of war has not been completely turned off yet. The Church is aware of the problem.

According to Bishop Alberto Vera, president of Caritas Mozambique and bishop of Nacala, the poverty rate primarily rose in rural areas this year and prosperity has only increased in the circles of the political and financial elite. This has only deepened the chasm between the country’s rich and poor.

Bishop Adriano Langa confirmed this assessment during the interview with the ACN foundation. “Of course there is poverty in Mozambique, that is indisputable.” For the bishop of Inhambane, the poverty is particularly evident in rural areas, one example being in his diocese, which has very poor infrastructure. “When there are no roads, communication becomes very poor and that is what is happening in Mozambique. The north produces a great deal; however, the products do not reach the south because of the lack of roads.”

ACN supports the church in Mozambique with subsistence support to priest and religious sisters as well as with financial aid for formation and building projects. The foundation funded projects in 2017 with almost 650,000 euros in grants.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT Aid to the Church in Need, VISIT http://www.churchinneed.org
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Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 5000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.