Close to 1 million people gathered on the Soamandrakizay field for the Pope’s Mass, Sunday, in Madagascar, one of the world’s 10 poorest countries, where 75 per cent of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day.
Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina, a Catholic, and his wife, Mialy, sat near the front of the crowd. What God wants, the Pope said, is for people to extend a helping hand to others and to let them know that they are loved by God and have a dignity that cannot be taken away and should not be attacked. He urged the nation’s people “to make your beautiful country a place where the Gospel becomes life and where life is for the greater glory of God.” The pontiff quoted the “Document on Human Fraternity” signed in Abu Dhabi in February on coexistence between people of different religions, particularly Christians and Muslims.
At Akamasoa, speaking to the young people, Pope Francis encouraged them to “never stop fighting the disastrous effects of poverty; never yield to the temptation of settling for an easy life or withdrawing into yourselves.” The Pope is in a week-long tour of three countries in Africa, including Mozambique and Mauritius. Most of Madagascar’s 25 million inhabitants live off of agriculture. According to a report from 2015, only 15 percent of the population has electricity in their homes.