Pope Francis in Mauritius: Do not pit economy against environment, poor

Pope Francis receives a gift from the acting president of Mauritius Barlen Vyapoory Sept 9 2019 Credit Vatican Media Pope Francis receives a gift from acting president of Mauritius Barlen Vyapoory Sept. 9, 2019. | Vatican Media.

Do not let economic development in Mauritius be at the expense of the country's young, poor, and environment, Pope Francis told authorities, civil society, and diplomats Monday.

"Since its independence, your country has experienced a steady economic development that should certainly be a reason to rejoice, but also to be on guard," the pope said Sept. 9, at the presidential palace in the capital city of Port Louis.

"In the present context," he said, "it appears that economic growth does not always profit everyone," especially the young.

"That is why I would like to encourage you to promote an economic policy focused on people and in a position to favour a better division of income, the creation of jobs and the integral promotion of the poor," he stated.

Pope Francis went on to encourage civil leaders to resist the temptation of an "idolatrous economic model that feels the need to sacrifice human lives on the altar of speculation and profit alone, considering only immediate advantage to the detriment of protecting the poor, the environment and its resources."

To do this, he said, will require an approach based on "an integral ecological conversion" as Cardinal Maurice Piat, the bishop of Port Louis, said on the 50th anniversary of Mauritius' independence.

"A conversion that seeks not only to avoid terrible climatic phenomena or extreme natural catastrophes, but also to promote a change in the way we live, so that economic growth can really benefit everyone, without the risk of causing ecological catastrophes or serious social crises," the pope stated.

Mauritius obtained its independence on March 12, 1968, after more than 200 years of colonization by the French and the British following years of Dutch and Portuguese settlements.

The country is made up of many different ethnic groups, primarily Indo-Mauritian, Creole, Sino-Mauritian, and Franco-Mauritian.

The primary religion on the island is Hinduism, followed by Catholicism and Islam.

The pope was in Mauritius for a one-day visit at the end of a six-day trip which also took him to Mozambique and Madagascar.

Pope Francis praised the country's ethnic, as well as cultural and religious, diversity Sept. 9, saying the Mauritians are known "above all for the beauty born of the ability to acknowledge, respect and harmonize existing differences in view of a common project."

"This sums up the history of your people, born of the arrival of migrants from different horizons and continents who brought their own traditions, cultures and religions, and gradually learned to be enriched by the difference of others and to find ways of living together and striving to build a society committed to the common good," he said.

According to Francis, the country has "an authoritative voice" on the topic, showing that lasting peace is possible, when beginning from the idea that "diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a 'reconciled diversity.'"

He also expressed his appreciation for the country's different religions and the way in which they respect their specific identities while also working "hand-in-hand to contribute to social harmony and to uphold the transcendent value of life against every kind of reductionism."

"And," he added, "I express once more the desire of the Catholics of Mauritius to continue to participate in this fruitful dialogue that has so deeply marked the history of your people."

Given the island's history of immigration, the pope asked them to continue to welcome and protect migrants, saying "be protagonists and defenders of a true culture of encounter that enables migrants (and everyone) to be respected in their dignity and their rights."

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Concluding, Pope Francis prayed for "God to bless your people and every effort you make to foster the encounter of different cultures, civilizations and religious traditions in the promotion of a just society, one that does not forget its young and, above all, those who are most vulnerable."

"May God's love and mercy continue to accompany you and to protect you!" he said.

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