The event of the Vatican consistory and Pope Francis naming 17 new cardinals was broadcasted on Mauritius television. One of the nominees to be elevated to cardinal was Msgr Maurice Piat, the Roman Catholic bishop of the Port Louis diocese. The excitement around this nomination is to be understood in the context that Mauritius is a very small island in the Indian Ocean and who would think that this miniscule country would receive such recognition ? Indeed, the announcement of the choice of our bishop was a total surprise, even for him, apparently, there was no indication prior to the public announcement by the Vatican.
The local media buzz around nomination time was so high. The government mobilized its services and an official delegation accompanied Msgr Piat to Rome. Many Mauritians gathered in pilgrim groups, even expat Mauritians from various countries, to attend the ceremony in Rome. Those interviewed on television spoke of their pride and joy for their country. Cardinal Maurice Piat is the second Roman Catholic cardinal for Mauritius after the greatly respected Cardinal Jean Margeot who died in 2009 at age 93.
On 24 November, Cardinal Maurice Piat returned to Mauritius and was greeted at the airport by the Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth to an official state protocol ceremony. This included, a guard of honour, flag raising and the police band playing the Pontifical Anthem and the Mauritian national anthem “Motherland”. After the speeches the attending officials, ministers and members of parliament greeted Cardinal Piat. At the completion of the protocol ceremony the cardinal was driven away in a white BMW limousine together with an escort to the St. Louis Cathedral in Port Louis for a Te Deum, a thanksgiving mass.
On Sunday 27th November there was an open-air thanksgiving mass celebrated at the site “Marie Reine de la Paix” at the foot of Signal Mountain in Port Louis. There was a huge crowd, see the video below, at this event which included government officials, several bishops, members of the Episcopal Conference of the Indian Ocean, two bishops from Madagascar: Msgr Désiré Tsarahazana, Msgr Fabien Raharilamboniana together with Archbishop Msgr Paolo Gualtieri the Holy See apostolic nuncio based in Madagascar as well as representatives of the country’s main religions.
In several public speeches Cardinal Maurice Piat mentioned his motto (French: “Pousse vers le large“), “Put out into deep water” which is from the bible in Luke 5:4″. This is in tune with Pope Francis’s exhortation to go further out to the outer limits. To go to the extremities where there is suffering and bring succour and hope to our brothers and sisters. Cardinal Piat’s message on this basis was that words are not enough, we must work for social harmony and peace in our families and for the country.
Cardinal Maurice Piat of Port-Louis, Mauritius, hails from a place at “the end of the world.” The 75-year-old, however, is no stranger to the outside world, having entered the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in Ireland and completed his theological studies in Rome. He also studied in Paris before returning to Mauritius and serving as a parish priest for several years. Appointed coadjutor of the Diocese of Port-Louis by the late Pope St. John Paul II in 1991, Cardinal Piat also served as head of the Indian Ocean Bishops’ Conference and is a member of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.