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.
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.
“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!”