After Mozambique and Madagascar, two of the poorest countries in the world, the pope ends Monday his week-long African tour with a visit to Mauritius, a multi-ethnic island in the Indian Ocean.
In a video message addressed to the Mauritians before his visit, the sovereign pontiff, fervent advocate of interreligious dialogue, had praised a people "rich in diverse cultural and religious traditions".
"It will not be a visit of Pope Francis to Catholics, but the people of Mauritius in all its religious diversity," confirms Cardinal Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port Louis, the capital.
The small majority Hindu republic (52%), has 30% Christians, mainly Catholics, and 18% Muslims.
The Mauritian Prime Minister, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, already sees the visit as a showcase of "the success of Mauritius in economic and social terms, but also as a true model of pluralism." "Our cultural diversity has never prevented us from creating an environment that promotes dialogue, understanding and peace," he said.
Monday, François will make a return trip to Mauritius from Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, before returning the next day to Rome.
After arriving in the late morning, Francis will celebrate a mass at the monument "Mary Queen of Peace", which overlooks from its hillside the capital, where John Paul II had already preceded in 1989.
François' visit coincides with the 155th anniversary of the death of Father Jacques Désiré Laval, a French priest who died on September 9, 1864 and beatified in 1979 by John Paul II. The pontiff will go to the tomb of Father Laval, considered "the apostle of the blacks" and "the apostle of the Mauritian unity".
This pilgrimage, which gathers every year some 100,000 people in the night of 8 to 9 September, was advanced this year to the night of 7 to 8 September because of the papal visit.
At the end of the day, the Argentinian pope will also meet with the President of the Republic, Barlen Vyapoory, with a mainly honorary role, and with the Prime Minister, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, before speaking to the country's civil and political authorities .
The bishopric intends to welcome the pope as "an ecologist pilgrim", and has begun to plant in his honor some 200,000 trees. Before leaving for Madagascar in the evening, François will proceed with a blessing of plants and nature.
Mauritius, which enjoys a stable democracy and a more developed economy than its African neighbors, contrasts with the other two countries visited by the Pope during this African tour, Madagascar and Mozambique.
On the spot, the route taken by the Pope is adorned with the yellow and white flags of the Vatican and portraits of the pope.