Countdown begins for Pope’s visit

By: OUMA WANZALA

The Government Sunday released a programme for Pope Francis’ visit, with a Holy Mass at the University of Nairobi being the highlight of his trip beginning November 25.

He will hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta and some groups at which peace, inclusivity and religious tolerance will be on top of the agenda.

State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu, accompanied by Bishop Alfred Rotich, chairman of the Pope’s Visit Secretariat, told journalists in Nairobi that Pope Francis will also talk about the fight against poverty and climate change.

“These issues are obviously relevant for Kenya in this season,” Mr Esipisu said Sunday, adding that the Government will also provide weekly updates on the planning for the State and pastoral visit.

“The Pope is reaching out to all religions and all the people. He has a very humane message that he is sending, which is very appropriate not just for Kenya, but for the whole world today,” said Mr Esipisu.

He said teams from the Vatican and the Government continue to work closely.

The spokesman disclosed that this week, another advance team from the Vatican will visit the country, as consultations and preparations continue.

INTER-RELIGIOUS MEETING

Mr Esipisu said the Pope will arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on November 25, and will be received by President Kenyatta and the Archbishop of Nairobi, John Cardinal Njue.

On that day, he will hold discussions with the President before making special addresses to the nation.

On November 26, the Pope will have an inter-religious meeting at the Nuncio’s (the Pope’s representative in Kenya) and then head to the University of Nairobi to celebrate Holy Mass.

Mr Esipisu said Pope Francis will later address the Catholic community at St Mary’s. He will eventually address members of the diplomatic corps at the United Nations offices in Gigiri.

On the last day of his visit, November 27, he will address the youth from across the country at Kasarani Stadium, before visiting the residents of Kangemi to assess the Catholic Church’s work in this community.

Mr Esipisu said Pope Francis will travel with a group of 80 journalists on his aircraft, who will stay at the Kempinski, where they will also have a media centre.

“There will be a secondary media centre at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, as well as working space for journalists and live television locations at the Safaricom Stadium in Kasarani,” said Mr Esipisu.

He said four Kenyan journalists had been selected to travel on the papal plane.

They will be required to travel to the Vatican and continue on the journey from Kenya to Uganda and the Central African Republic.

NATIONAL PRAYERS

Mr Esipisu added that the Inspector-General of Police will give a security brief at an appropriate time.

“But I can confirm that security arrangements are in place, and continue to be fine-tuned regarding the visit. Considering that we expect as many as a million Kenyans to converge on Nairobi, this is a massive security operation and it is being given all the seriousness it deserves,” said Mr Esipisu.

He said the police will designate drop-off points so that individuals who wish to attend Mass can make their way with the minimum of worries.

On Sunday, Bishop Rotich called on Kenyans to join in prayer ahead of the visit, and seek peace and tolerance.

“We urge an end to the ethnic undertones and inciting remarks by leaders who were elected to protect the welfare of all the people,” said Bishop Rotich.

He went on: “We call for national prayers and conversation. Let us make this opportunity to seek a new life and a new beginning in our country, our families and our places of work.”

He regretted the recent political name calling and ethnic incitement.

“Our country and the people of Kenya already have to contend with many afflictions such as the escalating economic challenges but cannot contend with disunity at the leadership level,” said Bishop Rotich.

HARAMBEE OF EFFORTS

He said Kenyans should work together to seek solutions to problems facing the country.

The cleric added that choirs that will sing during the papal Mass were practising in different parishes all over the country, and registration of the young people who will spend time with the Holy Father was almost concluded.

“We urge our Christians to continue registering at their parishes to come and receive the Holy Father. Every Catholic parish in Kenya is required to send three buses of pilgrims for the main Mass on November 26.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION