, THE VATICAN, Italy, Nov 24 – When the Pope is in Rome, he holds Papal Audiences on Wednesdays, where he conducts teachings and readings and prays together with those in attendance.
This Wednesday will be one of those days the Papal Audience won’t take place; At dawn, he embarks on his maiden five-day trip to Africa that will take him to three countries.
The focus begins in Kenya where he will spend two days with an itinerary that includes meetings with government officials, conducting mass, meeting slum dwellers and interacting with thousands of Kenyan youths.
When he holds mass, it’s estimated that there will be one million pilgrims at the University of Nairobi, adjoining streets and adjacent grounds like Uhuru Park where giant screens will be mounted for people to follow the ceremony.
And the world will be watching too.
The visit by Pope Francis is no doubt a plus for Kenya, which hosted another high profile individual in July – US President Barack Obama.
Kenya’s Tourism Ministry points out that after the two high profile visits, Kenya plays host to the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference which will bring thousands of delegates to Nairobi, giving the country’s otherwise edgy sector a much needed yank.
Efforts have been made to restore confidence in Kenya, with one of the most recent being Kenya’s participation at the Milan Expo. “Kenya was among 150 countries that showcased its investment and tourism potential for six months,” the ministry said.
President Kenyatta who hosts Pope Francis at State House upon his arrival on Wednesday was himself in Milan this September where he launched the Make it Kenya campaign.
Kenya’s tourism sector has been weighed down by terrorism – acts that have not escaped the Pope’s concerns.
At a recent mass he regretted that the world had opted for war and hate.
He said the world should ask for the grace to weep “To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it.”
But tourism is not the only challenge that Kenya or Africa face as Pope Francis comes to visit.
The Catholic Church is facing challenges of its own, as is religion as a whole, and the issue of extremism.
After his Kenya visit, the 78-year old Pope Francis will go to Uganda and the Central African Republic which has seen gruesome scenes of sectarian violence.