04 December 2018
Ad Limina Visit

Islands in the Indian Ocean, focussing on young people

The greater part of the pastoral care efforts put into place by the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Indian Ocean Islands, that group together the Seychelles, La Réunion, Mauritius, Rodrigues, the Comoros, Mayotte, with a total population of a million faithful, is focused on young people. The bishops discussed this during their ad limina visit which took place a few days ago at the Dicastery, explaining that, with the exception of the Comoros and Mayotte, all the Islands have a large Catholic population and have been going through more or less similar major social, economic, cultural, moral and religious changes.

The Seychelles Archipelago (115 islands and only one diocese, Port-Victoria) has developed thanks to tourism, but this growth has exposed the territory to greater laicism, secularisation, and loss of traditional values.  The Church is clearly feeling the urgent need to implement a more creative pastoral mission to support families and guarantee the transmission of the faith to the new generations.  In the entire CEDOI (Episcopal Conference of the Indian Ocean) area a book by Yves Semen on the theology of the body according to John Paul II has been adopted as a reference manual to strengthen family pastoral care and each diocese has been given the duty of studying a chapter in depth.

Even the Island of Réunion has been affected by a strong secularisation which has translated into a drop in births, population ageing, decrease in the number of marriages, an increase in divorce and widespread cohabitation. Therefore, the only diocese on the Island  - Saint-Denis de la Réunion – has doubled its efforts  to make the light of the Gospels shine in these areas of shadow and to kindle hope. Marriage and family are among the pastoral priorities.  Three groups of young people will leave here for the World Youth Day in Panama.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Rodrigues numbers 42,369 inhabitants, 86% of whom are Catholics. Young people are moving away from traditions and family and faith are suffering from a crisis. Divorces are increasing, marriages increasing and different sects are multiplying. Here, as in the other islands, working with wounded families is still in its early stages. The parishes are slowly getting in touch with separated, divorced and remarried persons to undertake a journey together.

The Island of Mauritius only has one diocese and also here young people are the first to pay the price of loss of a horizon of social values. In an attempt to develop a long-term strategy for this challenge, a diocesan catechesis project called “Kleopas” was created in 2016 to give shape and visibility to youth pastoral care, with the aim of restoring the role of protagonist to the family, because it is exactly the weakness of the family and in some cases its absence, that causes a short circuit in the transmission of the faith. Another aspect of the pastoral mission in Port-Louis is the participation of the laity, that compensates at least in part for the lack of priests.