Hundreds of thousands expected at Pope Francis’s Madagascar mass

Antananarivo, Sept 8 (AFP/APP):Up to 800,000 people were on Sunday expected to gather in the Madagascan capital Antananarivo to hear Pope Francis say mass on the second leg of his three-nation African tour.

Many had already started setting up tents on the outskirts of the city on Friday, armed with posters of the Argentine pontiff.

Prospere Ralitason, a 70-year-old farm worker, arrived with some 5,000 fellow pilgrims from the central eastern town of Ambatondrazaka, 200 kilometres (125 miles) away.

“We are tired, but it’s worth making all these sacrifices to see the pope with our own eyes and receive his blessing,” he told AFP.

The mass at the Soamandrakiza stadium was due to begin at 10:00 am (0700 GMT).

The last pope to visit Madagascar was John Paul II 30 years ago.

In June, 16 people were killed and dozens hurt in a stampede outside a sports stadium in Antananarivo during a free concert.

Crowds gathered on Saturday to welcome the pope as he made his way in his popemobile to Soamandrakizay.

Thousands of young people — mainly scouts — gathered for a vigil there, waiting hours in the heat for Francis to arrive.

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