Father Pedro, an Argentine missionary, created Akamasoa: five reception centres that serve 17 villages where everyone has a job. Speaking to priests and religious, the Pope said that “many of you live in difficult conditions and lack such essential services as water, electricity, roads and means of communication, or the financial resources needed for your life and pastoral activity.” For the pontiff, “It is interesting to see how Jesus sums up his disciples’ work by speaking of victory over the power of Satan”.
Antananarivo (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis dedicated the afternoon of his second day in Madagascar to “Gospel workers”, that is the people who are literally building the future, like Father Pedro who built stone houses in Akamasoa, and the priests and religious who try to meet the many needs of the poor people of Madagascar, from hunger and disease to joblessness in a beautiful and very poor country.
The pontiff first visited Akamasoa, a Malagasy association set up by Father Pedro Pablo Opeka, C.M. from Argentina, “one of my students at the Faculty of Theology,” said the Pope, one who preferred “doing” things rather than studying. And what he has done is Akamasoa: five reception centres serving 17 villages, home to 3,000 families, 25,000 people, more than 60 per cent of whom are under 15, all in school, and work for everyone.
Thousands came from all over to meet Francis. In the Manantenasoa auditorium, where Father Pedro accompanied Francis (pictured), some 8,000 young people shouted, sang, danced, getting even the members of the papal entourage into the mood.
“Indeed, this village reflects a long history of courage and mutual assistance,” said Francis. “This city is the fruit of many years of hard work. At its foundations, we find a living faith translated into concrete actions capable of ‘moving mountains’. A faith that made it possible to see opportunity in place of insecurity; to see hope in place of inevitability; to see life in a place that spoke only of death and destruction. Remember what the Apostle Saint James wrote: ‘Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead’ (Jas 2:17).
“The building blocks of teamwork and a sense of family and community have enabled you to rebuild, with patience and skill, your confidence not only in yourselves but also in one another. This has given you the chance to take the lead in shaping this enterprise. It has been an education in the values handed down by those first families who took a risk with Father Opeka – the values of hard work, discipline, honesty, self-respect and respect for others. You have come to understand that God’s dream is not only for our personal development, but essentially for the development of the community, and that there is no worse form of slavery, as Father Pedro reminded us, than to live only for ourselves.”
The nearby Mahatazana quarry is another example of community work. This is where Francis travelled to for his second afternoon event. Here too, he was met by thousands of people, singing and dancing. Welcomed by two workers near the monument to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Pope recited the Prayer for the workers which, among other things, says:
May our families know that the joy of earning our daily bread
becomes perfect when that bread is shared.
May our children not be forced to work,
but receive schooling and continue their studies,
and may their teachers devote themselves fully to their task,
without needing other work to make a decent living.
God of justice, touch the hearts of owners and managers.
May they make every effort
to ensure that workers receive a just wage
and enjoy conditions respectful of their human dignity.
Father, in your mercy, take pity on those who lack work.
May unemployment - the cause of such great misery –
disappear from our societies.
May all know the joy and dignity of earning their daily bread,
and bringing it home to support their loved ones.
Create among workers a spirit of authentic solidarity.
May they learn to be attentive to one another,
To encourage one another, to support those in difficulty
and to lift up those who have fallen.
Let their hearts not yield to hatred, resentment
or bitterness in the face of injustice.
May they keep alive their hope for a better world, and work to that end.
Together, may they constructively
defend their rights.
Grant that their voices and demands may be heard.
In the final event of the day, Francis spoke about the work ethics of consecrated persons. After leaving the Mahatazana Quarry, he travelled to the Collège de Saint Michel for a meeting with priests, religious men and women, consecrated people and seminarians.
“I know,” he said, “that many of you live in difficult conditions and lack such essential services as water, electricity, roads and means of communication, or the financial resources needed for your life and pastoral activity. More than a few of you feel the burden of your apostolic labours and their effect on your health. Yet you have chosen to stand beside your people, to remain in their midst. I thank you for this. I thank you for your witness of choosing to stay and not make your vocation a ‘stepping stone to a better life’. To remain there in the awareness, as Sister said, that, ‘for all our difficulties and weaknesses, we remain fully committed to the great mission of evangelization’. Consecrated persons, in the broad sense of the term, are women and men who have learned how to keep close to the Lord’s heart and to the heart of their people.”
“It is interesting to see how Jesus sums up his disciples’ work by speaking of victory over the power of Satan, a power that we, by ourselves, could never overcome, if not in the name of Jesus! Each of us can testify to battles fought… including a few defeats. In all those situations that you mentioned when you spoke of your efforts to evangelize, you fight this same battle in the name of Jesus. In his name, you triumph over evil whenever you teach people to praise our heavenly Father, or simply teach the Gospel and the catechism, or visit the sick and bring the consolation of reconciliation. In Jesus’ name, you triumph whenever you give a child something to eat, or save a mother from despair at being alone in the face of everything, or provide work to the father of a family. The battle is won whenever you overcome ignorance by providing an education. You bring God’s presence whenever any of you helps show respect for all creatures, in their proper order and perfection, and prevents their being misused or exploited. It is a sign of God’s victory whenever you plant a tree or help bring drinkable water to a family. What a great sign of victory over evil it is, whenever you work to restore thousands of persons to good health!”