“Church must not stay out of it”

Pope Francis during Mass in Port Louis, Mauritius © Alessandra Tarantino

Integrity of creation, peace and interreligious dialogue – these aspects are the focus of Pope Francis’ current trip to Africa. Father Hans Vocking draws a first interim balance before the last station Mauritus.

Interviewer: If you look back at the stops on the trip so far; has Pope Francis been able to make a statement?

Father Hans Vocking (Order of African Missionaries White Fathers): I think so. I think he has made his mark in the political arena, but also in the ecclesial arena. He met with politicians and representatives of civil society, where he clearly pointed out the needs and the necessities of political change. In addition, he has made the holistic claim: It is not enough to just talk about peace, you have to work for it.

He made similar remarks to representatives of the Catholic Church. In his speeches to bishops, priests and women religious, Francis also pointed out that the church must play its role in the social, political and cultural context. The biggest sign he set was definitely the meeting with young people from different religions. There he pointed out the peaceful coexistence and explained that it depends on the young people how the future of the respective country looks like.

Interviewer: We look first at the stations in Mozambique. There, the government and the opposition signed a peace treaty only this summer. Francis has now spoken with politicians and church representatives. What can he achieve concretely?

Vocking: One visit cannot change the world, even in Mozambique. But I believe that the pope has found the right words. Mozambique has been at war since independence. And the August peace resolution is on shaky ground, it must be recognized. But the pope has called the politicians to order and said: you are responsible for this and you must commit yourselves so that the population can follow you.

It’s similar in the church: the bishop may be the shepherd, but if he has no more sheep, he can talk in the desert. And it is not enough just to point to a future world, but also to a responsibility for the present and for today’s society.

Interviewer: In Madagascar, Pope Francis warned against the instrumentalization of religions at a Mass attended by about one million faithful. He said that those who misuse God’s name or religion to justify acts of violence are not acting in a Christian sense. The suffering of the people was not God’s plan. That is, it becomes already clear and clear.

Vocking: Madagascar is a special case. There was also a war between church and state. And the only blessed the country has, just in this church struggle in the 19. The foundation strongly represents and defends the interests of Catholics in the twentieth century.

The Pope is right when he points out that the Catholic Church is part of society. It also has a political responsibility. It cannot pass everything off to the politicians, but must also play a role itself. That is why the Christian message is holistic. The Church must get involved and ensure that Catholics themselves find the courage to get involved politically.

Interviewer: The pope’s last stop, starting today, is Mauritius, an island off the east coast of Africa. What awaits the Pope there in terms of content?

Vocking: I think Mauritius has it earmarked for interfaith. Here the Catholic Church is in the minority. Hindus are the largest religious group, and Muslims and Buddhists also live there. It really is an interfaith society.

So I think this is where he will bring the interfaith aspect to the forefront. He has always said he wanted to address three areas: The integrity of creation, peace and interfaith dialogue. And Mauritius is certainly an island where this can and must be practiced.

The interview was conducted by Carsten Dopp.

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