The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis will visit the eastern African nation of Mozambique and…
Pope Francis met with great enthusiasm at Matthew 25 Home in Mozambique
The best places for seeing the pope up close were already taken hours before. People excitedly chanted, “The pope is coming!” It was likely a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for many residents of Maputo — seeing the pope so close to their own homes without having to make a trip from Mozambique to Rome. There was great enthusiasm on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 5, when the pope, after meeting with bishops, priests and religious in the Cathedral of Maputo, arrived at the Matthew 25 Home. Since there were no barriers to contain the enthusiastic crowd, there was cheerful chaos along the street outside its main gate.
Matthew 25 Home is inspired by a Gospel passage dear to Pope Francis — namely that of the Final Judgment, which tells the faithful to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, dress the naked and take care of the poor, whoever they are. Therefore, this work of charity could not have had a better place as its headquarters.
The city of Maputo is the capital of Mozambique, a chaotic metropolis of over one million people overlooking the Indian Ocean. Maputo Cathedral is just over a mile away from Matthew 25 House, and the apostolic nunciature that hosted the pope during his stay in Mozambique was also nearby.
To reach the Matthew 25 Home, one must drive a long stretch of a busy road, with numerous motorcycles, cars, trucks and buses. At each traffic light, dozens of vendors swarm the stopped cars, offering anything from French fries to spare car parts.
The scenery around the small building that houses the Matthew 25 Home contrasts from the elegant buildings of the embassy district. The house is surrounded by dirt roads lined with poor houses and shacks, women selling fruit, vegetables or other goods on their doorstep (or taking them from baskets on their heads), and children playing soccer in dusty little squares.
The Matthew 25 Home is dedicated to children and young people, such as the two children who took the pope’s hands as soon as he crossed the threshold of the house. The pope was welcomed with dances, songs, wreaths of white and yellow flowers placed around the pope’s neck. He visited the home’s chapel and individually greeted those who serve as volunteers and workers, and those who come there for a meal and a friendly smile.
Mission of the apostolic nunciature
The Matthew 25 Home was established by the apostolic nunciature along with the collaboration of 20 religious congregations active in Maputo, including the Missionaries of Charity of St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Those who work at the home assist people who know on the door seeking help, especially street children, providing them with food and sanitary and hygiene services. And for about a year, a large group of volunteers has been traveling the streets of the city every evening to offer dinner and comfort to those living on the streets.
It is a tradition dear to Pope Francis, for every apostolic journey outside Italy, to dedicate time for a visit, no matter how brief, to an institution of the local Church engaged in charitable works. And often, during long and demanding journeys, these are the situations in which the pope, despite his tiredness, appears smiling and most at ease.
For Mozambique, the choice fell on Matthew 25 Home, despite the limited space available inside the house. An official speech of the pontiff was not scheduled, but his gestures spoke loudly of his love for those on the margins. There was a presentation of a gift, a large drawing made by the children to remember his visit. The pope was depicted smiling with some young people, presumably from the house.
The party atmosphere inside also spread to the street among the crowds. Many people, after seeing him enter, patiently waited outside the entrance gate to greet him again at the exit. As the pope’s car slowly pulled away from the building after his visit, the applause and a forest of cellphones immortalized the exceptional event. “Pope Francis, we love you,” some young girls kept shouting. And if the pope comes in a place like this, it means that he, too, certainly loves them.
Paolo Fucili writes from Rome.