On his first full day in Mozambique, Pope Francis applauded a recently signed peace deal between government and rebels.
The pontiff’s visit comes after the government and the former rebel group Renamo, now the main opposition party, signed a historic treaty.
The two sides in the former Portuguese colony fought a 15-year civil war that ended in 1992 and killed about a million people. But only last month did they sign a permanent ceasefire.
In talks with President Filipe Nyusi, the pope expressed his “personal gratitude… for the efforts made in recent decades to ensure that peace is once more the norm.”
Reconciliation, he said, is “the best path to confront the difficulties and challenges that you face as a nation.”
He described the accord as “a landmark that we greet with the hope that it will prove decisive.”
The talks at the presidential palace were also attended by Renamo opposition leader Ossufo Momade.
The pope also commiserated with victims of the two cyclones that killed more than 600 and affected hundreds of thousands.
“I would like my first words of closeness and solidarity to be addressed to all those struck by cyclones Idai and Kenneth, whose devastating effects continue to be felt by so many families,” he said.
“I want you to know of my own participation in your anguish and suffering, and the commitment of the Catholic community to respond to this most difficult situation.
“Amid the catastrophe and desolation, I pray that, in God´s providence, constant concern will be shown by all those civil and social groups who make people their priority and are in a position to promote the necessary rebuilding”.
September 04: Pope arrives in Mozambique
Thousands of jubilant Catholic faithful on Wednesday welcomed Pope Francis to Mozambique as he kicked off a three-nation tour of African countries, expected to focus on those hard hit by poverty, conflict and natural disaster.*
Touching down just after 6:00 pm local time (1600 GMT) Francis was greeted on the tarmac by President Filipe Nyusi, a military band playing the national anthem and a display of traditional dance.
The first pope to visit Mozambique since John Paul II in 1988, he was then whisked away in his popemobile, flanked by police bikes as crowds waved signs reading ‘welcome to Mozambique Prophet of reconciliation” and danced in celebration.
He stood in his popemobile and waved at the thousands of faithfuls who lined up along the fringes of the city’ main streets as he made the five kilometre (three mile) route from the airport to the Nuncio’s residence in the posh Sommerschield suburb, where he will stay during the visit.
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