Pope Francis in Mauritius on last leg of Africa tour

Pope Francis is flanked by Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina upon his arrival in Port Louis, Mauritius, from Antananarivo, Madagascar, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (AP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Pope Francis in Mauritius on last leg of Africa tour

  • The pope will celebrate mass at the Mary Queen of Peace Monument
  • Mauritius has begun planting some 200,000 trees ahead of the Pope’s visit

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius: Pope Francis arrived in Mauritius on Monday on the final stop of a three-nation Africa tour where he is expected to celebrate the diversity and tolerance of one of the continent’s richest, most stable nations.

Thousands of faithful gathered in the capital Port-Louis, some before dawn, waiting for the Argentine pontiff to address the small Indian Ocean island, a melting pot of religions and ethnic groups.

The pope will celebrate mass at the Mary Queen of Peace Monument, the same hillside location where John Paul II celebrated the eucharist during the last papal visit to Mauritius in 1989.

“More than 3,500 of us came from Reunion” island — about 175 kilometers (110 miles) — from Mauritius, said Josette, who is among those awaiting the pope.

Giant screens have been put up in Port Louis to allow devotees to watch the papal mass, and billboards adorned with Francis’ image have sprung up across the coastal city.

“It is very important for us to meet the pope. It is an occasion,” said Genevieve, 47, from Mauritius. Mauritius comprises four volcanic islands and lies roughly 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) off the eastern coast of Africa.

The population of 1.3 million is predominantly Hindu but has sizeable Christian and Muslim minorities. About 30 percent of Mauritius is Christian, with most being Catholic.

The island nation was briefly colonized by the Dutch, French and the British and since independence in 1968, has developed from a poor, agriculture-based economy, to one of Africa’s wealthiest nations. It is best known for its position as a global tax haven and idyllic tourist beach destination.
The pope is on the last stop of his tour which has taken him to Mozambique and Madagascar.

Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said the Pope would encounter a “true model of pluralism” during his visit. “Our cultural diversity has never prevented us from creating an environment conducive to dialogue, understanding and peace,” he said.

“It will not be a visit of Pope Francis to the Catholics but to the Mauritian people in all its religious diversity,” said Cardinal Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port Louis, ahead of the papal visit.

Francis’ visit coincides with the 155th anniversary of the death of Father Jacques Desire Laval, a French priest who died in Mauritius in 1864 and was beatified in 1979.

The Pope will visit the mausoleum of Laval, known as the “Apostle of Mauritius” for his missionary work. Every year about 100,000 pilgrims visit the tomb of Laval, northeast of Port Louis, on the night of September 8-9, to commemorate his death.

This year it was brought forward to September 7-8 to accommodate the Pope’s visit. The pontiff will also visit the official residence of President Barlen Vyapoory, whose role is largely titular, and will also meet with Jugnauth.

Mauritius has begun planting some 200,000 trees ahead of the Pope’s visit. It is expected Francis will be offering a blessing for the island’s natural environment.

According to the World Bank, one of the greatest challenges for the island is adapting to the effects of climate change — which has worsened tropical storms and floods affecting it.


Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Updated 15 October 2019

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.