Violence and instability in the Central African Republic have played heavily in reports about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Africa — his first as pope.
A CatholicNewsService report of the Pope’s schedule devoted much of the report to discussing the recent history of conflict in Central African Republic, and what the pope will be doing there.
The Vatican has officially released the schedule for the pope’s visit to Africa. He’ll be in Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic from Nov. 25-30.
He’ll visit a Nairobi slum, a Ugandan shrine for Catholic martyrs killed in the 1800s, and meet with the Muslim community at a mosque in Bangui.
Pope Francis will be in Kenya Nov. 25-27, Uganda from Nov. 27-29 and the Central African Republic for 33 hours from Nov. 29-30, according to RadioVaticana.
On his first stop in Kenya he will meet with ecumenical and inter-religious leaders, but he also will visit the Kangemi slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, and visit the United Nations office in Nairobi.
In Uganda, the pope will honor the memory of 23 Anglican and 22 Catholics killed for their faith on the orders of King Mwanga II between 1885 and 1887.
The Roman Catholic church will assemble 100,000 faithful in Uganda at the Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine, but a much larger crowd of 2 million is anticipated, according to a report in the International BusinessTimes.
“Pending security clearance, the Uganda Episcopal Conference has proposed to open the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine the night before to allow some 2 million pilgrims to gather ahead of the holy mass, which would free up the roads for the papal convoy the following morning,” according to IBTimes.
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While the pope is in the Central African Republic, he’ll visit a mosque in Bangui, the nation’s capital, visit a refugee camp, and hear confession from some youth, CatholicNewsService reported.
Meeting with young people is a theme of the pope’s Africa visit.
In its report of the pope’s Africa schedule, CatholicNewsService said Central African Republic “has known little peace or development in its 55 years of independence.” Here’s an excerpt from the report:
In March 2013, a rebel movement, Seleka, led by Arab-speaking Islamists, suspended the nation’s constitution. French and African peacekeepers were deployed in January 2014 and the rebels were driven out of the capital.
The National Reconciliation Forum, convened by the country’s transitional parliament in May, has been trying to bring Seleka and its Christian-dominated rival, Anti-Balaka, into talks and preparations for elections that originally were scheduled for Oct. 18. The vote, however, was postponed after violence broke out again in late September.
Sub-Saharan Africa was home to 171.48 million Catholics in 2010, according to the PewResearchCenter.
It’s one of the world’s fastest-growing Catholic populations, according to an earlier AFKInsider report. About 17 percent of the world’s Catholics live in sub-Sahara compared with 1 percent in 1910. During that period, the Catholic population in Europe fell from 65 percent to 24 percent.
Since 1980, the number of Catholics in Africa grew by 238 percent, according to the report, “Global Catholicism: Trends & Forecasts.” Globally, the proportion of the population that is Catholic has remained steady at about 17.5 percent for the last 50 years, CatholicHerald reported.
Here is the schedule for the pope’s visit as released by the Vatican Oct. 17. The times listed are local with Eastern Standard Time in parentheses:
Wednesday, Nov. 25 (Rome, Nairobi)
7:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m.) Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
5 p.m. (10 a.m.) Arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, followed by a welcoming ceremony at Kenya’s State House.
6 p.m. (11 a.m.) Courtesy visit with Kenya’s president at the State House.
6:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.) Meeting with Kenyan government officials and members of the diplomatic corps at the State House. Speech by pope.
Thursday, Nov. 26 (Nairobi)
8:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m.) Meeting with interreligious and ecumenical representatives at the apostolic nunciature in Nairobi. Speech by pope.
10 a.m. (3 a.m.) Mass on the campus of the University of Nairobi. Homily by pope.
3:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m.) Meeting with priests, religious and seminarians on the sports field of St Mary’s School. Speech by pope.
5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.) Visit to the United Nations Office in Nairobi. Speech by pope.
Friday, Nov. 27 (Nairobi; Entebbe, Uganda)
8:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m.) Visit to the Kangemi neighborhood in Nairobi. Speech by pope.
10 a.m. (3 a.m.) Meeting with youths at Kasarani Stadium. Speech by pope.
11:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.) Meeting with the bishops of Kenya in the stadium’s VIP room.
3:10 p.m. (8:10 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
3:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m.) Departure from Nairobi for Entebbe, Uganda.
4:50 p.m. (9:50 a.m.) Arrival at Entebbe International Airport.
5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.) Courtesy visit with the president of Uganda in the State House in Entebbe.
6 p.m. (11 a.m.) Meeting with Ugandan authorities and members of the diplomatic corps in the conference room of the State House. Speech by pope.
7:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.) Visit to Munyonyo and meeting with catechists and teachers. Greeting by pope.
Saturday, Nov. 28 (Namugongo, Kampala)
8:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m.) Visit to the Anglican martyrs’ shrine at Namugongo.
9:00 a.m. (2 a.m.) Visit to the Catholic martyrs’ shrine at Namugongo.
9:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m.) Mass for the martyrs of Uganda near the Catholic shrine. Homily by pope.
3:15 p.m. (8:15 a.m.) Meeting with young people at the Kololo airstrip in Kampala. Speech by pope.
5 p.m. (10 a.m.) Visit to the Nalukolongo House of Charity. Greeting by pope.
6 p.m. (11 a.m.) Meeting with the bishops of Uganda in the archbishop’s residence.
7 p.m. (Noon) Meeting with priests, religious and seminarians in Kampala’s cathedral. Speech by pope.
Sunday, Nov. 29 (Entebbe; Bangui, Central African Republic)
9 a.m. (2 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at Entebbe airport.
9:15 a.m. (2:15 a.m.) Departure for Bangui.
10 a.m. (4 a.m.) Arrival at M’Poko International Airport in Bangui. Welcoming ceremony.
11 a.m. (5 a.m.) Courtesy visit with the country’s transitional president in the presidential palace.
11:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m.) Meeting with leaders and with the diplomatic corps. Speech by pope.
12:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m.) Visit to a refugee camp.
1 p.m. (7 a.m.) Meeting with the bishops of the Central African Republic.
4 p.m. (10 a.m.) Meeting with evangelical communities at the evangelical theological school in Bangui. Speech by pope.
5 p.m. (11 a.m.) Mass with priests, religious, catechists and youths in the Bangui cathedral. Homily by pope.
7 p.m. (1 p.m.) Hearing the confessions of some young people and beginning a prayer vigil outside the cathedral. Speech by pope.
Monday, Nov. 30
8:15 a.m. (2:15 a.m.) Meeting with the Muslim community at the Koudoukou mosque in Bangui. Speech by pope.
9:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.) Mass in the Barthelemy Boganda Stadium. Homily by pope.
12:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at M’Poko International Airport.
12:30 p.m. (6:30 a.m.) Departure for Rome.
6:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m.) Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.