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Pope meets measles survivors in Madagascar

AP/Associated Press/East News

Pope Francis emphasizes that poverty is not inevitable

On his trip to east Africa, Pope Francis met Saturday in Madagascar with a family that contracted measles during the country’s worst outbreak of the epidemic, which this year has already caused more than 1,500 deaths.

The Holy Father met with the Malagasy family after the midday Angelus and a blessing of the altar in the Cathedral of Morondava.

According to UNICEF, Madagascar reported more than 118,000 cases of measles in first six months of this year, and there have been 1,688 reported deaths.

Due to poverty on Madagascar, there is a lack of access to health care, and there is poor vaccine coverage for measles on the island, with only some 58% of the population being vaccinated.

The Holy Father is on Madagascar through Sunday, and then will head to Port Louis, Mauritius, for a one-day visit Monday. He returns Tuesday to Rome.

Sunday afternoon, he visited an association founded by one of his former students, which in its 30 years of activity, has helped create housing for more than 25,000 people, developing 18 villages, complete with schools that provide education for some 14,000 children.

Jesuit Father Pédro Opeka invited Pope Francis to visit his Akamasoa Association, never expecting that his former theology professor from Argentina would be able to come. But indeed he did, and with a strong message:

Every corner of these neighborhoods, every school or dispensary is a song of hope that refutes and silences any suggestion that some things are “inevitable.” Let us say it forcefully: poverty is not inevitable!

The pope prayed that his former student’s work would help others to “enact models of development that support the fight against poverty and social exclusion, on the basis of trust, education, hard work and commitment.”

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