Pope Urges Kenya Leaders to Be Transparent in Working for Common Good
Praises Africans’ Concern for Environment
Pope Francis brought smiles this evening to Kenyan authorities and members of the diplomatic corps as he finished his address at an official welcoming ceremony with a prayer in Swahili: Mungu abariki Kenya — God bless Kenya.
The Pope arrived in Nairobi for the first leg of his six-day Africa trip a bit earlier than scheduled this evening, shortly after 4:30 local time.
After a festive welcome at the airport, the Holy Father was officially welcomed in a ceremony at the State House.
“Kenya is a young and vibrant nation, a richly diverse society which plays a significant role in the region,” the Pope said in his English-language address.
He spoke of Kenya’s efforts to shape a democracy, one “shared by many other African nations.”
“Like Kenya,” Francis said, “they too are working to build, on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation, a multiethnic society which is truly harmonious, just and inclusive.”
The Holy Father emphasized the importance of young people, a theme he often returns to in his travels and in Rome.
“The young are any nation’s most valuable resource. To protect them, to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand, is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders, values which are the very heart and soul of a people.”
He also praised the Kenyan respect for natural resources and a “culture of conservation.”
“The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature. We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received,” he said. “These values are deeply rooted in the African soul. In a world which continues to exploit rather than protect our common home, they must inspire the efforts of national leaders to promote responsible models of economic development.”
Citing a theme of his encyclical Laudato Si’, the Bishop of Rome noted the link between the protection of the environment and “the building of a just and equitable social order.”
In this effort, he said that “the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal,” noting that poverty and frustration are at the root of violence, conflict and terrorism.
And he called the social leaders and government authorities of his audience to “work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of society.”
“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,” he said.
The Pope concluded by referring to a tradition in Kenya of schoolchildren planting trees for posterity.
“May this eloquent sign of hope in the future, and trust in the growth which God gives, sustain all of you in your efforts to cultivate a society of solidarity, justice and peace on the soil of this country and throughout the great African continent. I thank you once more for your warm welcome, and upon you and your families, and all the beloved Kenyan people, I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings.
“Mungu abariki Kenya! God bless Kenya!”
Tomorrow, the Pontiff will begin his day with an interreligious and ecumenical meeting at the apostolic nunciature in Nairobi, which will be followed by a Mass on the campus of the University of Nairobi. After the Mass, Francis will meet with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians at the athletic field of St Mary’s School, before visiting the United Nations Office in Nairobi.
Friday morning, he will visit the poor neighborhood of Kangemi in Nairobi, meet with young people in Kasarani Stadium, and meet with the nation’s bishops. Then, there will be the farewell ceremony at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport before he takes off for the second leg of his visit, to Uganda. After Uganda, the Pope will head to the Central African Republic, before his return to Rome on Monday.
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Pope Francis Arrives in Nairobi
Before Heading to Official Welcome Ceremony at State House, Holy Father Receives Warm Welcome Full of Chants and Dancing at Airport
The first Pope from the Americas has kicked off his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, the continent where the Church is growing most rapidly in the world.
Pope Francis’ flight touched down early, about 4:30 p.m. local time, in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where he was welcomed by the nation’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta. The Holy Father received a warm welcome from local religious leaders and by crowds who were chanting, singing, and dancing. It was a very festive atmosphere.
The last Pope to visit Kenya was Pope John Paul II, who traveled to the country three times in 1980, 1985 and 1995.
Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited Africa in 2009, but he went to Angola and Cameroon.
Before being taken by car to the State House for an official welcome ceremony, Pope Francis signed a visitor’s book and met privately with President Kenyatta for a few minutes.
After the welcome ceremony, the Pope will meet with the civil authorities of Kenya and with the diplomatic corps.
Pope Prays at Santa Maria Maggiore Before Departing for Africa
This Marks Francis’ 27th Time Traveling to Rome’s Marian Basilica to Pray for Mary’s Protection
Last evening, Pope Francis traveled to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to pray for the success of his trip to Africa, which began this morning. This visit marked the Holy Father’s 27th visit to the Marian Basilica to pray for Mary’s protection and intercession.
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope prayed before the ancient image of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, and invoked the Virgin Mary’s protection on his travels and upon the people he will visit in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic.
Before last night’s stop, the Holy Father’s most recent visit to the Marian Basilica was on Sept. 28, upon his return from his first Apostolic Visit to Cuba and the United States of America.
This morning, Pope Francis, his papal entourage, and journalists boarded the Alitalia plane at about 8 a.m. local time at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport and departed shortly thereafter.
The papal flight is scheduled to arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Rome time for the beginning of his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, Nov. 25-30, where he will visit the capitals of Kenya, Uganda, and Central African Republic.
INTERVIEW: Spanish Priest of Neo-Catechumenal Way Tells of Strengthening Young Faith in Kenya
As Pope Arrives, an Overview of the Church and Society in This East African Nation
When Spanish priest Angel Iglesias Solarano, of the Diocese of Madrid, arrived for the first time in Africa in 1971, his first sensation was one of profound disturbance in witnessing the suffering of the population.
In particular the parish in Tanzania where he was serving with the White Fathers, was receiving refugees from Burundi, fleeing from the massacres in their country. “This experience brought me very close to them,” he says, “increasingly knowing the people, I realized that the faith was not lived in a mature way and that the Lord was calling me to an important mission: to help the Christians mature their very infant-like faith through a path of Christian initiation.”
Therefore, Father Iglesias asked his Superiors if he could continue the Neo-Catechumenal Way of which he was a part, and offer himself for the New Evangelization. After two years of study of Biblical Theology at the Jesuits’ University in Madrid, he left for the Ivory Coast, Burundi, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Rwanda as an itinerant catechist and, finally, in 1982 for Tanzania and Kenya, where he still carries out a mission of evangelization.
Father Iglesias spoke to ZENIT about Kenya just before Pope Francis’ arrival there this evening, sharing his precious “logbook” of over 30 years and talking about a wounded and contradictory country in its enormous riches and in its profound poverties, where the people still wait to receive the Christian proclamation, which the Pope will bring with his presence.
Here is a translation of the interview.
* * *
ZENIT: How has Kenya’s face changed in these years, recalling also the profound socio-political transformation it went through in the 90s?
Father Iglesias: I arrived in Kenya in the year 1982. Since then, the country has often changed its face. It’s not easy for me to summarize in a few words the entire history of the last years of this nation, which is one of the countries with the most dynamic economy of the African continent. Kenya presents strong contradictions: on one hand extreme wealth, manifested in the tall skyscrapers, downtown, which is similar to the great metropolises of the world, in the luxury cars. On the other, the extreme poverty in which the greater part of the population still exists.
In Nairobi, for instance, there are still very many shantytowns,
ZENIT: In this situation, what sort of reception does the Christian proclamation find in Kenya?
Father Iglesias: At the beginning it was very good. Kenya is a very Christian country, close to 80%. Ten per cent are Muslims and the rest of ancestral religions, but with an abundance of sects of Christian origin: there are about 15,000 sects (8,000 already registered and another 7,000 awaiting registration). This shows the people’s desire to come close to the Word of God, but also the critical situation in which the great traditional religions find themselves to respond to the profound request of the people. In any case, at our catechises the people were enthusiastic about the Word of God. For instance, at Mombasa or Nairobi, many came, and this in an environment of great confusion. We were very well received and blessed by Cardinal Maurice Otunga.
ZENIT: During the October Synod, the African Episcopate evidenced the Church’s great difficulty in having the faithful live Christian morality, which clashes with ancestral practices and traditions – something that has its repercussions especially on the family …
Father Iglesias: It’s true; the desire to live the religion is mixed with the family’s tribal traditions, with problems linked to the dowry, with polygamy. This is very strong in the rural areas. In the cities, because of globalization, secularism has arrived and the mentality of the modern Western world. All this makes it very difficult, especially for young people, to form a Christian family and many engaged couples live a married life without having received the Sacrament of Marriage. Hence, there is a dichotomy in practical Christian life, a divorce between the Doctrine of the Church and the life lived.
ZENIT: The social situation also seems complex, Kenya being a country that has 44 million people divided in 42 tribes.
Father Iglesias: Yes, there are so many tribes, but only three to four are the main ones. There is great diversity and antagonism among them, which has led in the course of history, also recently, to violent clashes. Often the sects responded to the needs of the tribes, for some they represented an occasion of work: to found a sect could also mean to ensure one’s life, religious support, and emotional refuge.
ZENIT: What influence does this have on the new generations?
Father Iglesias: Young people study in Kenya (even though the schools are very expensive). They are well prepared, ambitious, but often they don’t find a work outlet. They feel frustrated, fall into drugs, into prostitution and are abandoning the faith. Pornography is also widely spread and destroys their preparation for family life. Therefore, I am happy that in the Neo-Catechumenal Way there is a systematic catechesis in meetings and pilgrimages on the Theology of the Body of Saint John Paul II, of Benedict XVI, and of Francis on engagement, family life, and the transmission of the faith to the children. We see with joy how the Lord works in those young people who accept
ZENIT: Instead, what are the challenges that families face in Kenya?
Father Iglesias: The family in Kenya is suffering a great attack, with the gender ideology, which has also arrived here, with all its consequences, proclaiming a false autonomy of women, who in the end find themselves in great isolation and existential frustration, the children growing up without the presence of the paternal figure and directing everything to the children’s studies.
ZENIT: Then there is extremism, the “sirens’ call” for all persons without hope or prospects. How is this terror lived given the violence and attacks? In Kenya in particular, how is the memory of the massacre of Garissa, last April 2, lived?
Father Iglesias: The tragedy at the Garissa Campus was the most brutal summit of continuous attacks – some very bloody – which for close to eight years the Al Shabab Somali terrorist movement has been carrying out. This is causing great insecurity, pointing to the destabilization of the country. An effect of this is that in coastal areas, famous for the beaches, tourists no longer come, with a repercussion on the social fabric of Kenya as many lose their jobs.
ZENIT: Coming to Kenya, therefore, will Pope Francis find a tragic or positive scenario in Kenya?
Father Iglesias: The Holy Father will find first of all a very religious people, fond of him — people that desire peace. His visit will confirm the faith of brothers. There is in fact great and very strong expectation for this trip. In face of the ideologies and the message brought by the media, which contradict Christian morality and Dogma, the Pope’s coming will be a new spring for the Church in Kenya. It will give strength and missionary impetus.
ZENIT: The aspect of the visit highlighted in the main is the risk of attacks, especially during the stage in the Central African Republic. Feared, in particular, is that Al Shabab could take advantage of the Holy Father’s coming to strike Kenya’s Christians again. In your opinion, is this a real threat?
Father Iglesias: There have been no attacks for some time, because security has been greatly intensified at all levels, in buses, in airports, in shops. Metal detectors are used everywhere. This doesn’t mean that the risk is equal to zero, but it’s certainly a great deterrent. Moreover, the people are also prepared to help the forces of order in this endeavor of prevention, because they want peace in their country. The risk is real, but rather than probability one can speak of possibility. I’m sure that the Virgin, Our Lady of Africa, will protect us.
[Translation by ZENIT]
Pope Consoles Victims of Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking
Has Brief Audience With 11 Women, 6 Children Before Departing for Africa Trip
Before leaving for Africa this morning, Pope Francis gave some words of encouragement to victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.
This morning the Holy Father departed for Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, on the eleventh apostolic trip of his papacy. But at 7:15 a.m., before leaving for Rome’s Fiumicino airport, he received in the Domus Sanctae Marthae 11 women and six children from a Refuge House for victims of domestic violence and trafficking for the purposes of prostitution, according to the Apostolic Almoner. The women were Italian, Nigerian, Romanian and Ukrainian, and are housed in a structure managed by a religious congregation in a village in the Lazio region.
Following the audience, the Pope travelled by car to Fiumicino where he departed for Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
After a brief welcome ceremony in Kenya, the Holy Father was taken to the apostolic nunciature for the night. His intense, three-country visit concludes Monday.
Pope’s Address to Diplomatic Corps, Authorities
“To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing”
Below is the English-language discourse Pope Francis gave to authorities of the diplomatic corp of Kenya during his official welcome ceremony in the State House of Nairobi this evening:
Honourable Government and Civil Leaders,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
My Brother Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am most grateful for your warm welcome on this, my first visit to Africa. I thank you, Mr President, for your kind words in the name of the Kenyan people, and I look forward to my stay among you. Kenya is a young and vibrant nation, a richly diverse society which plays a significant role in the region. In many ways your experience of shaping a democracy is one shared by many other African nations. Like Kenya, they too are working to build, on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation, a multiethnic society which is truly harmonious, just and inclusive.
Yours too is a nation of young people. In these days, I look forward to meeting many of them, speaking with them, and encouraging their hopes and aspirations for the future. The young are any nation’s most valuable resource. To protect them, to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand, is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders, values which are the very heart and soul of a people.
Kenya has been blessed not only with immense beauty, in its mountains, rivers and lakes, its forests, savannahs and semi-deserts, but also by an abundance of natural resources. The Kenyan people have a strong appreciation of these God-given treasures and are known for a culture of conservation which does you honour. The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature. We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received. These values are deeply rooted in the African soul. In a world which continues to exploit rather than protect our common home, they must inspire the efforts of national leaders to promote responsible models of economic development.
In effect, there is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature, without a renewal of humanity itself (cf. Laudato Si’, 118). To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing. In the work of building a sound democratic order, strengthening cohesion and integration, tolerance and respect for others, the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal. Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration. Ultimately, the struggle against these enemies of peace and prosperity must be carried on by men and women who fearlessly believe in, and bear honest witness to, the great spiritual and political values which inspired the birth of the nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the advancement and preservation of these great values is entrusted in a special way to you, the leaders of your country’s political, cultural and economic life. This is a great responsibility, a true calling, in the service of the entire Kenyan people. The Gospel tells us that from those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded (Lk 12:48). In that spirit, I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of society. 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. I assure you of the continued efforts of the Catholic community, through its educational and charitable works, to offer its specific contribution in these areas.
Dear friends, I am told that here in Kenya it is a tradition for young schoolchildren to plant trees for posterity. May this eloquent sign of hope in the future, and trust in the growth which God gives, sustain all of you in your efforts to cultivate a society of solidarity, justice and peace on the soil of this country and throughout the great African continent. I thank you once more for your warm welcome, and upon you and your families, and all the beloved Kenyan people, I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings.
Mungu abariki Kenya!
God bless Kenya![02045-EN.01] [Original text: English]
INTERVIEW: Pope in Kenya: Salesians on the Front Line
Consecrated and Priests Ready to Hear Pope’s Message and Spread It
With the Pope just landing in Kenya, the local Salesians are seeing the fruits of their work to prepare the country for the papal visit.
A superior of the congregation is the president of the Organizing Committee for the Holy Father’s meeting with young people at Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium, planned for Friday morning.
Salesian Father Giannoi Rolandi, a missionary in African for 30 years, spoke with ZENIT about the anticipation for the Pope’s trip.
ZENIT: Father Gianni, in view of the Pope’s visit, almost eight months after the massacre of Garissa, how is the security situation in Kenya?
Father Rolandi: Kenya has taken the Pope’s visit very seriously and the government is seeking to focus on the fact of security. Feared, in fact, very concretely, is that the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab wants to take advantage of the Pope’s coming to again strike the Christians of Kenya. This would be a real disaster and the forces of order are now trying to do their utmost to take the necessary precautions.
ZENIT: How is the country preparing for the Pope’s visit?
Father Rolandi: Our Salesian communities in Kenya are inserted in the program of the Conference of Religious Superiors of Kenya, which dialogues with the Episcopal Conference and with the Association of Feminine Congregations. Great preparations are being made for the Eucharistic celebration of November 26, in which very many priests and Religious will take part, and then for the Holy Father’s meeting with members of consecrated life and diocesan priests, again on November 26, after the celebration of the Eucharist. The preparations are being made by some 9,000 members of consecrated life and priests, who will meet the Pope at Msongari, a great high school not far from the Square where the Eucharist will be celebrated.
ZENIT: In what tasks, in particular, has the Salesian community been involved?
Father Rolandi: Our Vicar Inspector, Father Simon Asira Lipuku, is the President of the Commission that is organizing the the Holy Father’s meeting with young people on November 27, before his departure for Uganda. We were stunned that the Episcopal Conference thought of the Salesians for this task! This is giving us the opportunity to come to know in a more detailed way the youth reality at the level of the Catholic Church in Kenya.
ZENIT: Is Francis popular in Kenya? What expectations are there for his meetings?
Father Rolandi: I would say that Pope Francis is very popular in Kenya, a country in which Catholics constitute the largest Christian church but where the members of the Protestant churches all together are more numerous than the Catholics.
It seems to me that the expectations are those of coming into contact more directly (even if through large screens that will be set up for the celebrations) with a “man of God,” who with great simplicity says things that make the “arrogant” tremble “on their thrones.” The Catholic Church and the members of consecrated life in particular are awaiting his words and planning to spread them after the visit, to be able to have the voice of the Church heard in an authoritative way on many points of interest, in particular on the injustices at the social and political level, and on the ethnic differences that are dividing the country.
ZENIT: If you could address words or a particular greeting to the Holy Father, what would you say?
Father Rolandi: I would say to him: “Holy Father, I am here before you, to give you the greeting of all the Salesian Family that lives and works in Kenya. We want to thank you for your constant invitation to be there, where the most marginalized young people are found, in the peripheries of our society … The peripheries are enormous here: there is truly space for very many that want to be available! To help us with his prayer to be apostles of young people always with a smile on our lips, not because we are not aware of the problems, but because we refuse to be saddened by all that we see that is negative around us. We want to be messengers of the joy that is discovered in putting oneself with Jesus at the service of the poorest. That he help us to live our consecrated life with great joy and enthusiasm, so as not to become ‘office Religious,’ but brothers and sisters of young people always ready to be in their midst. Thus we will be persons that are able to put God at the center of their life, living fraternal communion as prophecy in a world that is often individualistic and relativistic, to be with joy at the service of the poorest and most abandoned young people. We assure you that we will pray for you every day and for your ministry of love and communion for the whole of humanity!”
[Translation by ZENIT]
Pope Sends Telegrams to Heads of State During Flight to Kenya
Prays Almighty God Blesses Nations With Peace and Prosperity
During the flight this morning from Rome to Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, Pope Francis, as is customary, sent telegrams to the heads of states of the countries over which he flew. The first was sent to the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, in Italian, and the others were sent to the presidents of Greece, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, in English.
The telegrams are published below.
To His Excellency
Honorable Sergio Mattarella
President of the Italian Republic
As I prepare for an apostolic journey to Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic, moved by my great desire to meet the brothers in faith and the populations of those dear nations, it pleases me to send to you Mr. President this expression of a respectful greeting, which I accompany with special prayers for the good and prosperity of all the Italian people.
Franciscus pp.[Original Text: Italian]
His Excellency Prokopis Pavlopoulos
President of the Hellenic Republic
I send cordial greetings to Your Excellency and to your fellow citizens as I fly over the country on my way to Kenya for a pastoral visit. I invoke divine blessings upon greece, and I pray that Almighty God may bless you all with peace and well-being.
His Excellency Abdel Fattah Al Sisi
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
As i fly over your country on my way to Kenya for a pastoral visit, I extend cordial greetings to Your Excellency and the people of Egypt. Invoking the blessing of the Almighty upon the nation, I pray that he may grant you well-being and peace.
His Excellency Omar Al-Bashir
President of the Republic of the Sudan
Upon entering the airspace of the nation as I travel to Kenya for a pastoral visit, i extend cordial greetings to your excellency and your fellow citizens. I pray that the Almighty may grant the Sudan divine blessings of peace and prosperity.
His Excellency Mulatu Teshome
President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
As I travel over Ethiopia on my way to Kenya for a pastoral visit, I send cordial greetings to Your Excellency and to your fellow citizens. Assuring you of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the nation, i invoke divine blessings upon all of you.
Franciscus pp.[Original Text: English]