On Memorial of “Apostle of Mauritius”, Blessed Laval, Cardinal Urges Closeness to the Poor

Blessed Jacques-Désiré Laval.

On the occasion of the 179th anniversary of the arrival of renowned French Spiritan Priest, Blessed Jacques-Désiré Laval in Mauritius and the 156th anniversary of his death, the head of the Catholic Church in the Indian Ocean island nation has encouraged attentiveness to the plight of the poor in society.

In his homily Tuesday, September 8, the eve of the feast of Blessed Laval celebrated September 9, the Bishop of Port Louis Diocese, Maurice Cardinal Piat called on the people of God in Mauritius to take the cause of the poor to heart, working toward correcting injustice in view of regenerating the society after the example Blessed Laval.

“Inspired by the Word of God, he left his homeland, his medical profession, his security and he came to Mauritius. He came down so to speak, he came to live among us,” Cardinal Piat said in reference to Blessed Laval who has been described as the “Apostle of Mauritius.”

The Cardinal added in reference to Blessed Laval, “He arrived in Mauritius, and he was faced with a serious social crisis. The slaves had just been freed but they did not have access to school, housing or fixed employment. The authorities did not help them start their new life as free men.”


Amid the crisis, Laval “made himself close to the slaves, supported them and gave them a place in church despite violent criticism. He trusted them,” Cardinal Piat who is also a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) said September 8.

“When we listen to the poor and trust them, we no longer see them as a problem but as a strength,” the 79-year-old Cardinal said and added in reference to the poor, “They make us aware of our true dignity. They become our brothers and our sisters and this breathes new life into society.”

Like Blessed Laval, Cardinal Piat said, “the Church must be close to those who are homeless, those whose children are in drug hell, and those who have lost their jobs and who find themselves in a difficult financial situation, especially fishermen from the south-east coast.”

When we take the cause of the poor to heart, when we correct injustices, when we give them their rightful place, then society is regenerated, the Mauritian Cardinal said in his September 8 homily amid the two-day pilgrimage of Blessed Laval to conclude September 9.

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He added, “The poor, by standing up, transform our society and show us the way for a more united, more fraternal, happier society. The poor are not part of the problem; they are part of the solution.”

Born in France in September 1803, Blessed Laval abandoned his career as a medical doctor and dedicated his life to serve the ill and the poor people in Mauritius as a missionary from 1841 to the time of his death on September 9, 1864.

For his work in the Indian Ocean Island nation, he earned himself the title, “Apostle of Mauritius.”

He was beatified on April 29, 1979, becoming the first Frenchman to be beatified by Pope St. John Paul II and the first member of the Spiritans to be proclaimed as Blessed.


In his September 8 homily, Cardinal Piat also highlighted the “suffering” of the Mauritius people amid inadequate housing for the deprived, return of illegal drug trade, and COVID-19 crisis that has resulted in job losses especially in the country’s tourism sector.

He also touched on the ecological tragedy arising from the MV Wakashio disaster and the subsequent sinking of the Sir Gaëtan Duval tugboat, which was on a cleanup mission, leading to the death of three sailors and the disappearances of another.

“It was this suffering that was behind the criticism, the anger, the great disappointment that manifested itself,” he said referencing the August 29 mass protests in the country’s capital, Port Louis.

In the face of the various challenges bedeviling the country, Cardinal Piat called for collaboration between the country's civil society organizations and the government saying, “We must meet and listen to each other in order to work together.”

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“We must be united because we have a common origin, a common dignity, a common home and a common destiny,” he further said, adding, “We are in the same boat and if we do not want to sink, we must listen to each other, trust each other and help each other.”

To emerge from the crisis, the Bishop of Port Louis said, “We must listen together to the cry of the poor, the cry of the earth. This is what Father Laval did and this is what Pope Francis is asking of us today.”

“Happy will we be if, like Father Laval, we remain ‘poor in heart’. Trust Father Laval, Trust Jesus,” Cardinal Piat concluded.