[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] The visit of Pope Francis to Mauritius on Monday brought fresh energy and confidence to Christians in the country, according to the Bishop of Mauritius, Ian Earnest, who leaves this month to take up his new role as Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.
Former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean, Archbishop Ian Ernest, attended the mass at the Mary Queen of Peace Monument at which the Pope presided during his day-long visit to the Island. The Archbishop said the timing of the Pope’s visit, just weeks before he begins his new role in Rome, made him think about how God works. “It was a great opportunity to meet with him, to be part of this Eucharistic celebration at which he presided in front of 100,000 people with the authorities of the country.”
The Eucharist was attended by people from all areas of Mauritius and of many different religious persuasions. Archbishop Ian said: “As Anglicans we were praying the Pope’s visit would create an impact on our people so that they can see and discover the values of the kingdom of God. We had been preparing for that and we have not been disappointed.”
He said Pope Francis had shown his commitment to the alleviation of poverty and injustice and to encouraging people to care for God’s creation. He also challenged the country’s leaders and key representatives at a private meeting at the presidential palace to fight against social evils and resist the temptation of corruption.
“I think through all this he is making an immense contribution to humanity,” said the Archbishop. “His visit has brought about a new energy to Christians so that they can really share with others the joy that Christians have … it has encouraged them to see the potential and the richness of the commitment to serve Christ and worship him.”
The visit was also a very personal affirmation of the Archbishop’s new role as the Pope called him forward to share the peace with him at the Eucharist.
“When we shared the peace he hugged me, that was really an amazing image of an Anglican bishop being hugged by the Pope – what an image for the world.” After a meeting with the Pope later in the day he said: “he [the Pope] knew I was coming to Rome and that meeting and visit was a good foundation laid down before I take up my new position in Rome.”
Pope Francis’ visit coincided with the 155th anniversary of the death of Father Jacques Desire Laval, a French priest who died in Mauritius in 1864 and was beatified in 1979. The last papal visit to the island was Pope John Paul II who visited in 1989.
Speaking at the Eucharist Pope Francis encouraged the congregation to care for the youth of the country, to see their needs are met and that they are welcomed as active participants in the life of the nation.
Symbolising his commitment to safeguard God’s creation, the Pope also watered a number of small trees to be planted in four corners of the island. Mauritius had begun planting some 200,000 trees ahead of the visit.
Anglican Communion News Service, September 13, 2019