In early September, Pope Francis boarded the papal plane for a weeklong trip to three African nations: Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. Landing in Maputo, Mozambique, late in the evening on Sept. 4, he was received with full military honors, traditional dances and thousands of people lining the streets. The following morning, the pope met with political leaders, including Filipe Nyusi, the current president. Later, Pope Francis attended an interreligious meeting with 4,000 young people, where he stressed how much God loves each individual. He also met with bishops, priests, religious, seminarians and catechists at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Maputo. Before boarding the plane on Sept. 6, the pope visited a health center founded to care for people living with HIV/AIDS and celebrated Mass in a nearby stadium.
In Madagascar, the pope addressed the country’s poverty — Madagascar is one of the world’s 10 poorest countries — and rapid deforestation during a meeting with Catholic President Andry Rajoelina and other leaders. Next, Pope Francis visited a Discalced Carmelite monastery to meet about 100 nuns representing the island’s contemplative communities, where he talked about the example of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. During a vigil on Sept. 7 hosted at the Soamandrakizay diocesan field, tens of thousands of people of all ages listened to the pope’s message of growing in friendship with Jesus. He celebrated Mass at the field the next morning with nearly 1 million in attendance, and later prayed with workers at the Mahatazana granite quarry in Antananarivo.
The final part of the African journey included a day trip to Mauritius on Sept. 9, where Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the monument to Mary, Queen of Peace in Port Louis for the 100,000 people gathered. While the country has experienced rapid economic growth over the past 30 years, the pope spoke words of caution, urging the Catholic leaders to involve young people in all aspects of life and addressed the nation’s vocation crisis.
The photos in this In Focus capture the spirit of the people in Africa and Pope Francis’ love of the people there.