Head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis Benedictus has kicked off his fourth visit to Africa when he flew to Maputo, Mozambique.
The pope was greeted by government officials at a welcoming ceremony, with singing crowds lining the streets.
Over the next two days, Pope Francis will meet with government authorities and Church leaders in Mozambique. He will visit the Zimpeto DREAM center, a medical clinic run by the lay Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, which focuses on HIV prevention and antiretroviral treatment.
He will also spend two days in Madagascar, where he will meet with civic and Catholic leaders and attend a prayer vigil for youth, among other events.
The pope will make a brief stop in Mauritius, where he will celebrate Mass and meet with authorities before returning to Rome.
Ahead of his trip, Pope Francis said he had a special place in his heart for all residents of Mozambique “who live in tribulation.”
The country suffered grave destruction and loss of life after being struck by Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in March and April of this year.
Nearly 700 people lost their lives in the cyclones, and destruction to land and infrastructure was estimated to reach almost $900 million in damages.
The pope is expected to speak about climate change while he is in Africa.
The pope’s trip comes just a month after Mozambique’s government signed a long-anticipated peace and reconciliation accord with the opposition party, Renamo. The peace deal comes after decades of conflict, which followed the 1992 end of a 17-year civil war. The signing concludes years of peace talks.
In his message ahead of the trip, Pope Francis encouraged the people of the nation to pray for “a firm and lasting peace.”