HIGHLIGHTS of Pope’s visit to Kenya
Kenya was the first stop on Pope Francis’ first visit to Africa. On arriving he met with ecumenical and religious leaders and told them that interfaith dialogue was not optional but “essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs.”
Musonde Kivuva, archbishop of Mombasa and president of Kenya’s branch of the Catholic charity Caritas, welcomed the Pope and thanked him for setting an example of humility with his simple life and for his calls for change.”More can be done and should be done in all our slums. We do not need to wait for the Holy Father to come,” he said.
In spite of heavy rain, hundreds of thousands of Kenyans waited since dawn sheltering beneath umbrellas in a huge waterlogged field in central Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, for an open-air mass on Thursday. “Remember the poor. Respect the youth. Protect the unborn” – was the Pope’s message to the assembled crowd.
In spite of the long wait, the audience was enthusiastic. “There is something different about him,” said Lucy Namu, a government chemist and a resolute Catholic. “He is bringing a new hope, forgiveness, mercy, the sense everyone is welcome.”
On his last day in Kenya, Francis, known as “the slum bishop” before becoming pope because of frequent visits to the shantytowns of Buenos Aires, visited Nairobi’s Kangemi district, a slum neighborhood of potholed roads, open sewers and badly-built shacks . Children from a school run by the Catholic nuns and priests sang for the pope in the simple church of cinder blocks and wood, across the road from a row of shacks made of corrugated metal situated only a few hundred meters from smart apartment blocks and gated residential compounds.
Addressing slum dwellers, charity workers and clergy in St. Joseph the Worker Church, Pope Francis highlighted the “dreadful injustice of urban exclusion”which such slums represented . He spoke out against those who were responsible for the plight of thousands who had to live in such deprivation “These are 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 run-down peripheries” he commented.
The Pope criticised “faceless private developers who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your schools” but he said communal values in poor districts showed there was an alternative culture to the “god of money.”
Debt to the poor
Pope Francis declared that one of biggest challenges facing Africa was a lack of basic amenities and urged African governments to provide essential facilities: “Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water,” he said, adding no “bureaucratic pretext” should deny a family clean water.
The pope said Africa was not alone in facing what he called a “new colonialism which he says includes demands for austerity measures by international financial agencies that most hurt workers and the poor.