Cardinal in Madagascar Blames Country’s Deteriorating Social Structures on Corruption

Désiré Cardinal Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Toamasina in Madagascar. Credit: ACN

Désiré Cardinal Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Toamasina in Madagascar has decried what he terms as rampant corruption in the country, and blamed the country’s deteriorating social structures on graft.

In an interview with Catholic Pontifical and Charity Foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Cardinal Tsarahazana described Madagascar as “a country of great contrasts”, one blessed with many resources but with “deteriorating” social structures.

“Ours is a country of great contrasts. We have many resources, but the country is deteriorating,” Cardinal Tsarahazana has been quoted as saying in July 15 report by ACN.

He added, “There is a deterioration that is mostly linked to corruption. Many people want to enter politics so as to get rich as quickly as possible. There is also lack of education and civility because much of the deterioration is not economic, but social. The two are connected. If there is corruption, there is injustice; where there is injustice, there is no peace.”

To overcome corruption in Madagascar, “hope is essential”, the Cardinal said.


“When one falls into despair, one loses the energy to do something to change the situation, especially when one is suffering. But if one has hope that things might improve one day, courage and bravery follow,” he told ACN International.

The Cardinal added, “We cannot let ourselves be overcome by despair, by evil. We must trust in the Lord, otherwise we might think why do good, if the rest of the world is doing things badly? But we must work to do good, and the Lord will do the rest.”

In the interview with the charity foundation, the Cardinal insisted on the need to hold on to hope, so as to overcome evil.

Asked to describe the current situation of the Church in Madagascar, Cardinal Tsarahazana noted that there are many Christians. 

He said that most of the Dioceses in the island country in the Indian Ocean were witnessing an increase in the Christian faith, and that churches were full. 

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He challenged Christians in Madagascar to ask themselves if they are adhering to Christian teachings, saying, “We have to ask ourselves if we are really Christians, if we are living as Jesus taught us, in service to others. This contrast, this difference, worries me.”

“There are Christians, but we need to go deeper in the faith. The faith has to be really lived, and not just practiced outwardly. If we live as Jesus teaches, then we can develop better,” he said.

Asked to highlight the main fruits of Pope Francis’ visit to Madagascar in 2019, the Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry in Madagascar’s Fenoarivo Atsinanana Diocese since February 2001 said that the Holy Father “came to give hope.”

“Many people come to ask me for advice on what to do with their lives, and with the situation in the country,” he said, and added, “The Pope’s visit strengthened the people’s desire to face their daily challenges. In my case, it helped me strengthen my commitment to work for good.”

“We have grown used to the faith. It is easy to get used to going to Mass, for example. But it is crucial to understand what it means to be truly Christian. One has to be fully convinced of one’s faith, to discover the need to pray, to come into contact with the Lord, with God,” Cardinal Tsarahazana said.


He continued, “Our faith has to go further than what we are used to; we need to discover how we really need the faith. The Pope’s visit was an encouragement to rekindle our hope.”

The Cardinal who has been at the helm of Toamasina Archdiocese since 2010 noted that the population in Madagascar is “generally very poor”, and added, “Besides this, the country has been rocked by several natural disasters in recent years.”

He said that the catastrophes in the country, including the cyclones and the floods, have made the poverty of the population worse.

“This is something we have all been worried about. However, we have tried to work as a team, the dioceses that have not been too badly affected have been supporting those that suffered more from these catastrophes. In these circumstances we have been living solidarity and love,” Cardinal Tsarahazana said.

He also addressed ongoing religious intolerance in a number of African countries and noted that Madagascar had not experienced any religious violence yet.

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Cardinal Tsarahazana said that even with the widespread mushrooming of mosques in Madagascar, the relationship between Christians and Muslims is good.

“There is no violence, no hate; we live together,” he said, and added, “However, we don’t know what might happen if the number of Muslims in the country continues to increase. Extremists could come from other places, as has happened in other African countries, where there have been cases of violence against Christians.”

In the interview with ACN, the Catholic Church leader who was elevated to the rank of Cardinal in June 2018 thanked the Pontifical charity foundation for supporting evangelization in the country.

He said that vehicles and motorcycles that the Church had received from the charity entity had made travelling easy for Priest who he said used to walk long distances to get to their pastoral centers.

“Most of the churches in this country are very isolated. The priests often have to go to distant places to celebrate Mass and give catechism classes. Sometimes they have to walk two or three days to serve some communities. I have done this myself, walking for three days, though I can’t do it any longer,” the 68-year-old Malagasy Cardinal said.

He added, “We have also received aid to set up radio communication that helps us with formation in the faith, and this is something for which we are very grateful. We hope that this help continues, so that we can have all our dioceses covered by radio.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.