Pope Francis' first event in Madagascar was a meeting with the country's president and civil authorities. It's customary that the first meetings the pope holds when he visits a country are with political and social representatives and the diplomatic corps.
The president was the first to speak. He welcomed the pope with emotion, saying that his visit was a sign that Madagascar has not been forgotten.
“Your holiness, here you are on friendly ground, you are at home. My home is your home.”
In his speech, the pope insisted on the necessity of a policy at the service of the common good, especially for the most vulnerable citizens.
“I would encourage you to fight with strength and determination against all endemic forms of corruption and speculation that increase social disparity, and to confront the situations of great instability and exclusion that always create conditions of inhumane poverty.”
Pope Francis said that the integral development of a person should be accompanied by the care of the common home. He explained that it's necessary to find a balance to preserve nature while ensuring that people can live with dignity.
“Your lovely island of Madagascar is rich in plant and animal biodiversity, yet this treasure is especially threatened by excessive deforestation, from which some profit.'
“So it is important to create jobs and activities that generate income, while protecting the environment and helping people to emerge from poverty.”
For this to happen, the pope said that Madagascar needs the help of the international community, but at the same time, the Malagasy people must take charge of its own future.
“If we participate in a process respectful of local values and ways of life and of the expectations of citizens, we will ensure that the aid furnished by the international community will not be the sole guarantee of a country’s development. The people itself will progressively take charge and become the artisan of its own future.”
The meeting ended with the songs of a children's choir.
To conclude the meeting, the president and the pope planted a baobab tree, the tree symbolizing the African continent.