, ST PETER’S SQUARE, Rome, Dec 3 – Pope Francis has described as a “scandal,” and a “true disgrace to humanity,” the co-existence of opulence and abject poverty in Nairobi.
In his weekly St Peter’s Square address on his return to Rome from Africa, Pope Francis said it was startling to see the haves share a fence with the have nots in the slums. “Wealth and poverty live side by side,” he reported.
He said the stark contrast captured the extent of the inequality in Kenyan society and demonstrated why an economic revolution was necessary.
“The moment I remember?” he had said to Capital Group’s Editorial Director Michael Mumo on the flight back to Rome from Africa. “The crowds. That joy. That capacity to celebrate on an empty stomach.”
In all fairness he did however acknowledge that it wasn’t a reality unique to Kenya but mirrored in many developing countries around the world. “On this problem, I have spoken strongly at least three times. The first time was at the meeting of the popular movements in the Vatican, the second at the meeting of the popular movements in Santa Cruz della Sierra (Bolivia). Eight percent of the world’s riches are in the hands of 17 percent of the population,” he said on the flight.
An unfortunate reality, he said, in light of the wealth of resources in Africa. “Africa is a victim,” he told Mark Masai of NTV. “Africa has always been exploited by other powers. There are powers that only seek to take the great wealth of Africa, possibly the richest continent.
“But, they don’t think about helping to grow the nation, that they may work, that all may have work. Exploitation. Africa is a martyr, a martyr of exploitation. Those who say that from Africa come all calamities and all wars perhaps don’t understand well the damage that certain forms of development do to humanity,” he said.
It was for this reason and in light of the endemic corruption that haunts many an African country, Pope Francis told those gathered around St Peter’s Square on Wednesday, that he had called on Africa’s leaders to put humanity before the idolatry of money.
“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,” the Pope said in his inaugural address in Africa when he was hosted to a reception at State House.
In light of the challenges that the poor across the globe continue to suffer, Pope Francis told the youth that the need for missionaries is as pressing as any other time in history.
“Please do not write off the possibility of becoming a missionary, of spreading love, humanity and faith in other countries,” he said in his latest St Peter’s Square address giving the example of an 81-year-old Sister he met in Bangui.
“I am a nurse,” he quoted her as saying to him, “I studied a bit here and became a midwife and I have delivered 3,280 babies.”
“This is what missionaries are like: brave,” he concluded.
His visit to the Central African Republic, Pope Francis said of his time in Africa, was the most significant given the horrors of war its people had suffered.
That was why, he explained, he began the Jubilee Year of Mercy in Bangui.