By Elena Dini
ROME — Pope Francis is expected to visit three countries in southeast Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius, Sept. 4-10. Isaias Marcano, a native of Mozambique and The Lay Centre’s resident assistant, offered some comments in advance of the pope’s trips about his expectations for this visit and the situation the pope will find when he arrives in Mozambique.
Q. What is the situation now in Mozambique? What are the main issues at stake?
In 1992, peace was reached in the country, but we are still having some problems at the political level, above all between the two main parties. Two different kinds of military troops are active in the country: the one controlled by the ruling party and the other one responding to the second main party. We are currently working on having a unified military corps and, therefore, to merge the two.
Thank God that, in the first week of August, a peace agreement was signed between the government and RENAMO, the militant Mozambican National Resistance, which includes the creation of a single national army, as well as the integration of RENAMO troops as police and the end of conflict in Mozambique. This is good news for all Mozambicans, who keep dreaming of an effective and sustainable peace.
Q. How would you describe the Catholic Church in Mozambique?
The Church is the same everywhere on the one hand, but there are particular ways of living one’s own faith. Going to Mass is a big feast in Mozambique and even poor people look rich on that day because they are well-dressed and they celebrate. For most people, above all those living in the countryside, Sunday is a day only for God.
Catholic people in Mozambique are perceived as people acting for the good of society. For example, when there is a conflict, the priest or the bishop are invited as mediators. The Church has therefore an important mission in my country: it can do many things for the nation.
Q. Pope Francis will meet young people of different religious communities. Are ecumenical and interreligious dialogue a priority in a country with such a number of different confessions?
There are different Christians in my country, many people are Catholic and there is a good number of Anglicans, Evangelicals, and other believers, above all Muslims. Before the Portuguese came to Mozambique, many people were Muslim.
In the past, the different communities almost ignored each other when they were not fighting against each other. Now, the situation has changed, and Christians of different denominations work together, as well as with people of other faiths.
In my diocese of Quelimane, we usually organize a prayer service together on 1 December. It is also common to see interfaith marriages in Mozambique. Interfaith dialogue is a living relationship between people.
Q. As usual, Pope Francis will spend time with local clergy. What is the relationship between clergy and lay people in Mozambique?
We don’t have many priests in Mozambique and, therefore, we have some places that are mostly run by lay people who take care of the church. Some places will see a priest once in the year. Nevertheless, the relationship between lay and religious people is not always at its best. Lay people sometimes are entrusted with leadership roles, and cooperation with the clergy is not always easy.
Q. What are your expectations for the pope’s apostolic journey? What are your hopes?
My expectations and the expectations of my people are high. We are waiting for Pope Francis’ blessings and we also hope that his apostolic visit will bring a seed of peace, new hope and prosperity for everyone.