08 December 2015

Pope Francis visits Kenya; his first stop of three countries, on his first visit to Africa

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio (from Argentina) was elected Pope in March of 2013, he chose the name Francis in honor of Francis of Assisi. Like him, this new head of the Catholic church is concerned for the well-being of the poor.

Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has also been known for his humility, emphasis on God's mercy, and commitment to interfaith dialogue. He maintains a humble, less formal approach to the papacy than his predecessors.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his wife, Margaret, welcome Pope Francis to Kenya

Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, emphasis on God's mercy, and concern for the poor. He also believes the church should be more open and welcoming. As pope his manner is less formal than that of his predecessors: a style that news coverage has referred to as no frills, noting that it is "his common touch and accessibility that is proving the greatest inspiration."

An estimated 600,000 attended the mass at the University of Nairobi or viewed it at Uhuru Park.
Many stood in line as it rained throughout the night in order to get a spot.

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has made a point to meet the most needy on each of his 10 foreign tours. While on the continent of Africa in late November, he visited Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic.

An estimated one third of Kenya’s 45 million people are Catholics. Africa's rapidly-growing Catholic population is expected to reach half a billion by 2050.

Pope Francis celebrates mass at the University of Nairobi

Sampling of Pope Francis' comments while in Nairobi

"Christian families have this special mission: To radiate God's love, and to spread the life-giving waters of his Spirit. This is especially important today, for we are seeing the growth of new deserts created by a culture of materialism and indifference to others."

Concern for the poor
"I ask you in particular to show genuine concern for the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young, and a just distribution of the natural and human resources with which the Creator has blessed your country."

People stood for hours in the rain, for a chance to see Pope Francis

"Corruption takes away our joy and our peace. Each time we put a bribe in our pockets we destroy our hearts, we destroy our personalities, and we destroy our country. Please don't develop a taste for corruption. Each of us must resist practices which foster arrogance in man."

"May you always reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things are not of God. Overcoming tribalism is a daily endeavor that requires Kenyans to listen one another to avoid division. Like Kenya, many African countries are working to build on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue, and cooperation, creating a multi-ethnic society which is truly harmonious, just, and inclusive."

Radicalization and terrorism
"Inter-religious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential. God’s name must never be used to justify hatred and violence. All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies. If a young woman or man has no work or cannot study, what can he or she do? The first thing we have to do to stop a young person from being recruited is education and work."

Climate change
“Many are the faces, the stories and the evident effects on the lives of thousands of people for whom the culture of deterioration and waste has allowed to be sacrificed before the idols of profits and consumption. We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this; we have no right. The international community has to listen to the cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself.”

Folks enduring the cold and rain during the mass

Watch as this man enthusiastically plays a Kayamba during Pope Francis' mass in Nairobi. A Kayamba is an instrument made of reeds and seeds.

Pope Francis also visited one of Nairobi's many slums, Kangemi. The following quotes are excerpts from his speech there:
“I am here because I want you to know that I am not indifferent to your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows. I realize the difficulties which you experience daily. How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?"
"Such injustices are the result of wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy, and rundown peripheries."
"The poor cling to gospel values which an opulent society, anesthetized by unbridled consumption, would seem to have forgotten." 

Residents of Kangemi catch a view of the Pope as he arrives in their neighborhood

Continuing with his speech at Kangemi Pope Francis criticized the lack of “infrastructures and basic services" in slums and informal settlements.
"By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centers, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen. I refer, in particular, to access to drinking water."
"Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity."

Kangemi residents are thrilled to see Pope Francis

A final excerpt from the speech of Pope Francis at Kangemi:
"Dear neighbors, dear brothers and sisters, let us together pray, work and commit ourselves to ensuring that every family has dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, and reliable sources of energy for lighting, cooking, and improving their homes. That every neighborhood has streets, squares, schools, hospitals, areas for sport, recreation, and art. That basic services are provided to each of you. That your appeals and your pleas for greater opportunity can be heard. That all can enjoy the peace and security which they rightfully deserve on the basis of their infinite human dignity."

As is his habit, the Pope takes time to greet the children (photo from his visit to Kangemi)

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