Pope Francis is to set off for his first apostolic journey to Africa on Wednesday. At the heart of his 6-day journey, taking him to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, is his desire to bring a message of peace, reconciliation, dialogue and the impetus to overcome internal divisions.
Speaking on Thursday morning at a Press Conference in the Vatican, Press Office Director Fr Federico Lombardi said for Jorge Mario Bergoglio it will be a first time in Africa, and not only as Pope.
This apostolic visit will be Francis’ 11th journey abroad, but Father Lombardi pointed out: two Popes have been to these very countries before him. The first was Blessed Paul VI who visited Uganda in 1969. Then it was the turn of Saint John Paul II who visited some 42 African nations during his pontificate including Kenya in 1980, in 1985 and in 1995; Uganda in 1993; and Central African Republic in 1975.
During his three-nation trip Pope Francis will be accompanied by Cardinal Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, his deputy Angelo Becciu and the Cardinals Filoni and Turkson, respectively prefect the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as well as by masters of ceremonies, other Vatican staff, some 75 journalists and of course, security personnel.
Pope Francis is scheduled to spend one and a half days in each country; in Nairobi, Kampala and Bangui he will celebrate Mass with the faithful, hold meetings with political and religious authorities, exchange views with the bishops, spend time with the poor and the needy, meet with the youth, participate in ecumenical encounters.
In Kenya he will also address leaders and staff of the United Nations; in Uganda he will celebrate the Ugandan martyrs; in war-torn CAR he will open Bangui Cathedral’s Holy Door in a powerful gesture leading up to the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
One of Pope Francis’ last commitments before he boards the Papal plane bringing him back to Rome on November 30, will be a visit to Bangui’s Central Mosque for a meeting with the Muslim community.
This overview provided by Vatican Radio.