Pope tells young people 'poverty is not inevitable — Madagascar

Hundreds of thousands flock to Pope Francis Madagascar mass

Hundreds of thousands flock to Pope Francis Madagascar mass

Thousands of people were gathering before dawn Sunday in the Madagascar capital Antananarivo, braving a cold windy morning to hear Pope Francis say mass on the second leg of his three-nation African tour.

Standing where the phrase "by the sweat of their brow" is a daily reality for hundreds of Madagascar's poor, Pope Francis prayed for those whose daily bread is earned by hard physical labor and for the unemployed longing to earn a living for their families.

"Your stunning island of Madagascar is prosperous in plant and animal biodiversity, but this esteem is mainly threatened by vulgar deforestation, from which some revenue", Pope Francis counseled authorities and diplomats on Saturday.

Francis told the crowd to work not only for their own personal agendas and goals but for others. "Every corner of these neighborhoods, every school or dispensary, is a song of hope that refutes and silences any suggestion that some things are 'inevitable'". 'Akamasoa is a revolt against poverty, ' he said.

Speaking to the young people of the "City of Friendship", the Pope encouraged that they "Never stop fighting the baneful effects of poverty; never yield to the temptation of settling for an easy life or withdrawing into yourselves".

Opeka, a charismatic, bearded figure who is beloved by many in this city, was working as a Lazarist missionary in Madagascar when he was inspired to create Akamasoa after witnessing the degrading life led by the parents and children who lived off the dump.

Francis made his appeal on a visit to Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island, which research institutes and aid agencies say has lost about 44% of its forest over the past 60 years, abetted by illegal exports of rosewood and ebony.

Hanitra Nirina Rasoananahary, 29, one of the quarry workers, told the pope, "our wages are meager, but we are happy to have work".

Opeka said the low salaries he can pay the quarry workers are an injustice.

Rasoananahary told the pope that Father Opeka and the Akamosoa community celebrate Mass in the quarry three times a year - on the feasts of the Ascension, the Assumption and All Saints.

"We pray for those who work with their hands and with enormous physical effort: soothe their wearied frames, that they may tenderly caress their children and join in their games", he continued in the prayer.

Pope Francis has written a letter to President Yoweri Museveni as he overflew over Uganda ahead of his trip to Mozambique on Friday - his 31st trip overseas and his return to sub-Saharan Africa - with a visit to HIV-AIDS patients and an open-air Mass focused on reconciliation and peace.

In Madagascar - home to 25 million people - the vast majority live in poverty on an income of less than two dollars a day. According to the World Bank, 75% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day.

He said in a tweet after the Mass that he supported the pope's call for transparency.

"In Akamasoa, we have shown that poverty isn't inevitable, but was created by the absence of a social sensibility on the part of political leaders who abandoned and turned their back on the people who elected them", Opeka said.

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