Pope Francis, ending his visit to Mozambique, on Friday scolded political and business leaders in the resource-rich but poor East African country who allow themselves to be corrupted by outsiders.
On his last day in the country, Francis visited a hospital for HIV-AIDS sufferers run by the Sant’ Egidio community and then said a mass for some 60,000 of people in Maputo’s national stadium.
At the hospital and in his homily, Francis spoke of all four of the main themes of the trip to this country as well as Madagascar and Mauritius – peace, poverty, corruption and environmental protection.
“Mozambique is a land of abundant natural and cultural riches, yet paradoxically, great numbers of its people live below the poverty level,” Francis said in the stadium, in an area of the capital where many people live in shantytowns with houses of corrugated metal roofs.
At the AIDS hospital, the pope saw a cross made of wood and shards of metal from the collapsed roof of the home of an elderly woman.
According to the U.N. World Food Programme, 80% of Mozambique’s population of about 30 million cannot afford the minimum costs for an adequate diet.
“At times it seems that those who approach with the alleged desire to help have other interests. Sadly, this happens with brothers and sisters of the same land, who let themselves be corrupted. It is very dangerous to think that this is the price to be paid for foreign aid,” Francis said.
Francis also spoke earlier of his concern over the environmental degradation in Africa, some it caused by rampant deforestation and extraction industries.
He said that assisting the poor could help put people in touch in touch with the earth, which is also vulnerable, and suffers from “symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life … the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor”.
Deforestation, along with soil erosion, made Mozambique more vulnerable when two cyclones hit the country this year.