Pope Francis hails peace in postwar Mozambique | News | DW | 05.09.2019
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Pope Francis hails peace in postwar Mozambique

The leader of the Catholic Church has urged Mozambique's political leaders to uphold peace and tone down divisive rhetoric. The country is hoping to avert political violence in the run-up to elections slated for October.

Pope Francis rounded off his visit to Mozambique on Friday by giving a Mass to an estimated 60,000 people in a rain-soaked sports stadium in which he warned citizens of the dangers of corruption and injustices carried out by public officials.

"Mozambique is a land of abundant natural and cultural riches, yet paradoxically great numbers of its people live below the poverty line," Francis told the assembled Mozambicans in the city of Maputo, where he was as part of his trip to three African countries. "At times it seems that those who approach with the alleged desire to help have other interests."

Corruption cost Mozambique $4.9 billion between 2002 and 2014 according to Transparency International.

Pope Francis on Thursday urged Mozambique to uphold its hard-earned peace after warring parties signed a peace deal in August, decades after the end of its brutal civil war.

"You have experienced suffering, sorrow and affliction, but you have refused to let human relationships be governed by vengeance or repression or to allow hatred and violence to have the final word," said Francis.

The pope described last month's peace accord as a "landmark" for the country. However, he urged the country's political leaders to avoid incendiary rhetoric as Mozambicans gear up for elections next month.

"As we know, peace is not merely the absence of war but a tireless commitment, especially on the part of those of us charged with greater responsibility," said the pope.

Pope Francis also visited a medical centre specialising in AIDS treatment, talking to HIV-infected mothers and pregnant women, in a country where 60% of women are HIV positive. The Catholic Church has poured a large amount of money and resources into the fights against AIDS in Africa, but AIDS activists remain critical of the Church's opposition to artificial contraception.

Read more: Can coffee growing in Mozambique save a rainforest and keep the peace?

People wave flags with a picture of Pope Francis

Thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of the pope during his trip to Mozambique

New politics

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi thanked the pope for his "immeasurable support."

"The efforts made by the Mozambicans, Holy Father, are essentially aimed at building a nation where non-violence becomes a culture lived by all, where politics is done through the force of argument and not the force of arms," Nyusi said.

A 1993 peace accord signed in Rome by warring parties collapsed two decades later when government forces raided opposition encampments in the bush, triggering a new insurgency.

But negotiations were relaunched in 2016 and concluded with a new peace accord last month, paving the way for fresh elections. More than one million people were killed, including from famine, throughout the 15-year conflict.

The second leg of the papal trip to Africa begins today in Madagascar.

Read more: 'No peace, no election in Mozambique': RENAMO junta leader tells DW

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ls,ed/sms (Reuters, dpa, afp, AP)

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