, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 2 – Government officials and representatives of the Catholic Church are working round the clock to ensure everything is in place, weeks ahead of the much anticipated visit by Pope Francis.
During a site visit to three venues where the Pope is set hold meetings, acting Lands, Housing and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i expressed confidence that all works would be completed within a week.
He said the country was eager to host the Pope – who is among high profile individuals to visit Kenya in recent times – and there was need to ensure all goes according to plan.
“We will be ready ahead of time; we have agreed that all the construction work we are doing should be done by 10th and all the venues should be handed over by then,” said Matiang’i.
He said the Office of the President had directed that everything be put in order and that nothing should be left to chance.
At the University of Nairobi graduation grounds where the Pope is scheduled to celebrate mass, construction workers were busy working to complete the papal altar.
The workers with tools on hand were clearly aware of how ‘majestic’ the individual to whose honour the structure was being constructed was as they toiled in hot sun to put together the structure.
“Let’s put our best foot forward,” said Matiang’i as he held consultations with the works secretary Aida Munano who is managing the construction.
Already, the underground chamber which will be used for preparations leading up to the mass has been tiled with only a few touch-ups left to make the area immaculate.
There was no activity at the St Marys School where the pope will hold interdenominational meetings with religious leaders while at St Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Kangemi preparations were in top gear but journalists were not allowed in due to security reasons.
The area around the church was getting a thorough scrub down and a fresh coat of paint applied, with the poster indicating the name of the church now visible from a far unlike before.
It was clear everyone was going out of their way to make the visit a success.
What however concerned the acting Lands CS was the impassable road leading up to the church.
The residents who briefed him disclosed that if there was rain on that day, the road would be impassable as it would be slippery and hence the need for repairs to be done.
To resolve the matter, Matiang’i insisted that all those involved in the planning hold meetings to iron out issues relating to the construction of the road to ensure all the plans were in tandem.
“The movement of the Pope will be very well organised and there will be no problem at all. We are working with the county government and the church to ensure this is done,” he assured.
He also noted that there was need for good lighting on the street leading up to the Church since many dignitaries were expected to come in early ahead of the Pope’s arrival.
While most details of the visit have been kept under wraps due to security concerns, part of the Pope’s programme during the African voyage is known to facilitate planning.
The Catholic Church has stated that it is looking for Sh100 million to facilitate completion of all the preparations with the papal structure estimated to cost over Sh50 million alone.
Matiang’i however shielded the government from the accusation that it was spending public funds saying this was a high-profile guest who should be accorded all the respect and honour and hence cost was not a factor adding that the government was working with well-wishers and the Catholic Church to guarantee success.
“When you look at the resources we are spending to host this guest sincerely speaking Kenya can afford to do this and really it is not too much an inconvenience – let us focus on the important things,” he added.
Pope Francis comes to Kenya on November 25.
Father Philip Anyolo who chairs the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops said they were excited about the Pope’s visit and what it meant to not only the church but the country as a whole.
“This is his home, we are his sons and daughters and he is coming to bless us as Kenyans – let us take him as our father and as one who brings us special blessings.”