Kenya Says ‘Karibu Papa Francis’ As The Pope Starts His African Tour

Kenya Says ‘Karibu Papa Francis’ As The Pope Starts His African Tour

From BBC.

Pope Francis has arrived in Kenya for a three-nation African tour – his first to the continent as pontiff.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ululating crowds welcomed him at the airport in the capital, Nairobi.

The pope called for peace, saying conflict and terrorism “feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration”.

A leading Muslim cleric in Kenya welcomed the visit, saying it gave hope to the “downtrodden in the slums”.

An atheist group said it would challenge in court a government decision to declare Thursday a holiday in honor of the pontiff.

Pope Francis’s five-day visit will also include Uganda and Central African Republic, which has been hit by Christian-Muslim conflict.

Kenya’s government has said that up to 10,000 police officers may be deployed during the visit.

Militant Islamists have carried out a spate of attacks in Kenya – including the 2013 siege at Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre, which left at least 67 dead, and the Garissa National University College attack in April, which left 150 people dead.

“All men and women of goodwill are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing,” Pope Francis said at a function hosted by President Kenyatta in State House.

Pope Francis warned of the “grave environmental crisis” facing the world, and said leaders needed to promote “responsible models of economic development”.

He made a veiled reference to corruption by calling on leaders to work with integrity and transparency, says the BBC’s Joseph Odhiambo in Nairobi.

President Kenyatta called on the Pope to pray that Kenya succeeds in its fight against corruption.

On Wednesday, he fired six ministers following allegations of corruption in the government. The six have denied the allegations.

In sub-Saharan Africa, there are 517 million Christians — 63 percent of the total population, according to a 2011 survey by U.S.-based Pew Research Center. More than half are Protestants. Catholics make up about a third. The Muslim population is 248 million (about 30 percent of the total).

About 30 percent of Kenyans  including President Kenyatta are baptized Catholic, and there is huge excitement around the visit.

Crowds lined the streets of Nairobi to catch a glimpse of the pope as he was driven in a grey Honda saloon to Kenyatta’s office. One of Kenya’s main newspapers, The Standard, welcomed him with headlines in Latin, “Grata Franciscus Pontifex”, and the regional Swahili language, “Karibu Papa Francis”.

Abdalla Kwamana, vice chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, said the visit as highly significant, and welcomed the Pope’s decision to include a slum in his itinerary.
“It is often said that Kenya is owned by the rich and powerful. The people in the slums are never recognized,” he said.

A crowd of more than 1 million is expected at a mass Thursday at the University of Nairobi sports ground, Kenya’s private Daily Nation newspaper reports.

The tiny Atheists in Kenya group said the decision to declare Thursday a public holiday and a day of prayer was unconstitutional.

“The constitution clearly states that there shall be no state religion. We cannot have the government acting religiously,” its leader Harrison Mumia said, Nation FM radio station reports.

Read more at BBC.