Pope Francis begins his visit to Madagascar

Pope Francis descending the plane on arrival in Madagascar

The Papal plane taking Pope Francis to Madagascar, for the second leg of his Apostolic Visit to three southern African nations has arrived in the capital, Antananarivo.  Pope Francis touched down on Malagasy soil just after 4pm local time on Friday 6 September.

The Pope’s 31st Apostolic journey abroad sees him visiting the people and the Church of Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.

After wrapping up the first leg of his journey in Mozambique with the celebration of Holy Mass in a packed stadium in the capital, Maputo, the Pope bade farewell to the people urging them to continue to pursue reconciliation and peace.

In Madagascar, he was greeted at the airport by the President and an official delegation. Two children in traditional dress offered him flowers and crowds of faithful expressed their joy at his arrival.

The visit begins in earnest on Saturday morning as the Pope pays a courtesy visit to political authorities at the Presidential Palace, addresses authorities, diplomats and leaders of civil society and then goes on to recite the midday prayer at a Carmelite Monastery.

8.2 million Catholics

During his first full day in the country, Pope Francis is also scheduled to meet with Madagascar’s bishops and visit the tomb of the Blessed Victoire Rasoamanarivo, before wrapping up the day with young people.

On Sunday, he will celebrate Holy Mass in Antananarivo and visit the so-called “City of Friendship” in Akamasoa founded by Missionary priest, Pedro Opeka.

From a population of 23.6 million, 8.2 are Catholics. He Catholic Church in Madagascar is made up of 22 dioceses comprising 438 parishes and more than 9,000 pastoral centres.

In Madagascar one finds 25 Bishops, 892 diocesan priests, 855 religious priests, 5,006 nuns, 1703 lay missionaries, 14,395 catechists and 1977 seminarians preparing for priesthood.

The Church in this country owns or is responsible for the running  of 5,367 primary schools catering for 480,000 children; 1204 secondary schools attended by 202,000 students and 62 Higher Schools and Universities with 16,500 students.

The Catholic Church in Madagascar also runs 20 hospitals, 217 clinics, 154 homes for elderly or disabled people, 154 orphanages and 24 centres catering for leppers.