Faithful wave palm leaves as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass at the Monument Mary Queen of Peace, in Port Louis, Mauritius, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Francis has arrived in the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius to celebrate its diversity, encourage its ethical development and honor a 19th century French missionary who ministered to freed slaves. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pope honors Mauritius diversity, urges ethnical development

September 09, 2019 - 4:42 am

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius (AP) — Pope Francis has arrived in the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius to celebrate its diversity and honor a 19th century French missionary who ministered to freed slaves.

Thousands of Mauritians waved palm branches as Francis arrived Monday to celebrate a Mass honoring the Rev. Jacques-Desire Laval. While Catholics represent less than a third of Mauritius' 1.3 million people, Laval is seen as a unifying figure for all Mauritians, most of whom are Hindu.

Francis is in the Mauritian capital Port Louis for just a few hours to meet with government leaders on the final day of his weeklong Africa trip.

Attending the Mass was a 50-member delegation from the Chagos Islands, an Indian Ocean archipelago that includes the U.S. air base on Diego Garcia.

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