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Pope lauds Mozambique bishop slammed for helping insurgency victims

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This photo taken and handout on August 19, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis speak during a live-streamed weekly private audience from the library of the apostolic palace in the Vatican during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP)



Pope Francis on Wednesday called the bishop of Mozambique’s city of Pemba, capital of the insurgency-hit Cabo Delgado province, to express support for his assistance to victims of recent violence, the bishop said.

Government supporters last week accused Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa a Brazilian national who heads the Muslim-majority province’s Catholic Church — of supporting a local jihadist group operating in the area since 2017.

Their comments were posted on social media after President Filipe Nyusi criticised “certain foreigners” for taking “lightly” the “suffering of those who protect them”.

Mozambican troops have been battling to regain control of Mocimboa da Praia, a strategic town in the country’s gas-rich north, whose port was seized by Islamist militants last week.

Lisboa has been openly critical of the government’s inability to protect its citizens.

Over the years his church has provided food and accommodation to hundreds of thousands of people displaced to Pemba, which lies about 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Mocimboa da Praia.

“To my surprise and great happiness, I received a call from his holiness Pope Francis, who comforted me a lot,” Lisboa told a press conference.

He said Pope Francis told him “he follows the situation in our province with concern and has been praying for us.”

Lisboa briefed the Pope on the “sad situation” in Mocimboa da Praia, which he said was “still” under the control of the insurgents.

Local rights groups have defended Lisboa.

Jihadist attacks began in 2017 in Mocimboa da Praia and have since spread to massive swathes of the province.

The violence has displaced over 250,000 people and killed at least 1,500, according to the ACLED Data Project.

The latest attack was claimed by the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP), an Islamic State-affiliated group whose stated goal is to establish a caliphate in the region.

Mocimboa da Praia lies 60 kilometres (40 miles) south of a liquefied natural gas facility — one of Africa’s biggest single investment projects — on the Afungi peninsula.




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