Pope, in Mozambique, Urges Nonviolence
Victims of Mozambique’s civil war sat in wheelchairs by the altar Saturday as Pope John Paul II preached reconciliation and nonviolence to one of the largest gatherings of his southern Africa tour.
“Violence, as always, generates violence, fear and death, seriously restricting liberty,” the pontiff told 25,000 people assembled in the Indian Ocean port of Beira, the second-largest city of this former Portuguese colony.
Speaking from an altar topped with dried palm fronds and a wooden cross, John Paul said that Mozambique is living “an ecclesiastical experience . . . of reconciliation with God, with itself and with others. The Gospel is reconciliation. . . . “
Mozambique, which has 2 million Catholics in a population of 14.5 million, has given the Pope the warmest welcome of his five-nation tour.
Five thousand people greeted him after he flew to Beira, which is almost unreachable except by air and water because of intense guerrilla activity.
Evidence of Marxist Mozambique’s economic collapse during almost 13 years of war with right-wing guerrillas of the Mozambican National Resistance, or Renamo as the rebels are known by their Portuguese acronym, is visible everywhere. And at the open-air mass in Beira, about 20 handicapped people sat in wheelchairs to the Pope’s left. The most common injuries among them were missing limbs, blown off by land mines.
The Roman Catholic Church has frequently urged a dialogue with the rebels and been rebuked by the government. But recent church-state relations are greatly improved.