Pope Francis yesterday exhorted the political leaders of Mauritius to promote policies that reduce income inequality and to reject “the temptation of an idolatrous economic model.” Source: NCR Online.
In an eight-hour visit to the island nation, the Pontiff pointed to economic growth that he said “does not always profit everyone” and “feels the need to sacrifice human lives on the altar of speculation and profit alone.”
Addressing interim President Barlen Vyapoory and the country’s other political leaders directly during an event at the presidential palace, the Pope said: “I would like to encourage you to promote an economic policy focused on people and in a position to favour a better division of income, the creation of jobs and the integral promotion of the poor.”
His remarks were the most forceful of his current three-nation tour of Southern Africa, and some of the most direct he has ever offered to political leaders during his 31 trips abroad as Pontiff.
The Pope’s visit comes as the country is dealing with a series of public embarrassments, including the resignation of Mr Vyapoory’s predecessor over a credit card expense scandal and release of a series of reports, known together as the “Mauritius Leaks,” showing how international companies take advantage of the country’s super-low corporate tax rates to hide billions from their native governments.
Although Francis did not refer to any particular scandal by name, at several points in his address he said he wanted to “encourage” the country’s leaders to pursue certain policies, in an unusual shift from the Pope’s more cautious and diplomatic style on his trips abroad.
“By your conduct and your determination to combat all forms of corruption … you demonstrate the grandeur of your commitment in service to the common good and [are] worthy of the trust placed in you by your fellow citizens,” the Pontiff said.
Mauritius, which has a population of about 1.3 million, is about one-third Catholic. In his first event on the island, Francis celebrated Mass with about 100,000 people, who were gathered outdoors on a hillside under a monument dedicated to Mary.
Francis also mentioned economic issues in his homily, referring to Mauritius’ problem with youth unemployment, saying it leaves young people “vulnerable and helpless before new forms of slavery.”
Francis returned to Madagascar last night and will return home to Rome today.