, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 12 – It is about 20 years ago when Kenya last hosted a pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
That was Pope John Paul II.
During his last visit, Pope John Paul II held meetings with Kenya’s then President Daniel arap Moi. The climax of his visit was at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park where Catholic faithful gathered in their tens of thousands to attend Mass.
This year, Kenya is honoured again with the expected visit of Pope Francis from November 25 to 27.
According to the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), the Catholic Church has formed various committees that are charged with preparing for the historic three-day visit by the Holy Father.
Last weekend, 18 bishops from the 25 Catholic dioceses of Kenya converged in Nakuru to discuss issues affecting the church and the country in reflection of the papal visit.
Kitui Bishop Antony Muheria said the Pope’s visit is important to remind people the importance of practicing good values anchored on their faith.
“We are waiting to hear what the Holy Father will say, but excited that the Pope is the voice of Christ and he will speak to the youth, the poor whom he has a soft spot for, the leaders and the whole nation, surely that is a flood of grace that will make our country change and will give us the impulse we need to really change because we need to change as Country,” he said.
While in Kenya, Pope Francis is set to hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta and other top government officials at State House, Nairobi.
He is also scheduled to meet leaders from different religions including Christian, Muslim, Hindu and traditional leaders.
The Head of the Vatican State will also preside over a mass celebration service at a location to be disclosed later.
Thousands of Catholic faithful are expected to throng the City of Nairobi to receive and welcome the Pope to Kenya.
KCCB Chairman Rt. Rev Philip Anyolo and Apostolic Nuncio (envoy) to Kenya and South Sudan, Charles Daniel Balvo have urged the faithful to prepare spiritually to welcome and receive Pope Francis.
Pope Francis – the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church – has been viewed as more accommodating and tolerant especially on the church’s stringent standing on various issues including reproductive health.
“Pope Francis being a Jesuit scientist has brought relevance in the church approach to issues such as evolution, reproduction and choice that for years have dogged the Catholic Church in sharp criticism on its somewhat abstract approach.”
The Catholic Church in Kenya has an estimated 7.5 million baptised Catholics that account for 33 percent of the population.
The Head of the Catholic Church in Kenya is John Cardinal Njue who was among the 116 Cardinals in the world who elected Pope John Francis to succeed Pope Benedict XVI in 2013.