Joy as Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Nairobi


Multitudes braved heavy rain and cold weather as they made their way to the University of Nairobi grounds to attend Mass celebrated by Pope Francis Thursday morning.

Police said that an estimated one million people attended the Mass, at the university and the nearby Uhuru and Central parks. Millions more watched it on television in their homes and public gatherings.

Queues of faithful heading to the University of Nairobi grounds began swelling as early as 5am. Children accompanied their parents to see Pope Francis and take part in the historic mass.

It was the Pontiff’s first Mass in Africa.

According to State House, Kenyans had filled Nairobi streets from as early as 3am in spite of the rain that pounded the city all night.

About three in 10 Kenyans, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, are baptised Catholics.

Pope Francis was the main celebrant of Thursday’s Mass with John Cardinal Njue as the co-celebrant. Cardinal Njue also gave the vote of thanks to the Pope.

There was an estimated 4,000 priests who later assisted the Pope in giving Holy Communion to the faithful. Retired President Mwai Kibaki was among them.

Besides the 60 cardinals, archbishops and bishops, there were also 1,000 nuns and an equal number of lay people who sat below the newly constructed altar.

On the left side of the raised dais was the choir from 12 different churches from Nairobi, Machakos, Rongai, Mlolongo as well as the University of Nairobi and the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

The choir masters, Mr Mukasa Wafula and five-year-old Francis Mulei Mbithi, both coordinated the nearly 360 singers. Young Mbithi stood out.

Among the exceptional entertainers next to the choir was Father Katana from Mombasa who played the Kayamba in a style reminiscent of Mathias Keya, who played the instrument with alacrity when Pope John Paul II celebrated another mass at Uhuru Park in 1995.

The liturgical dancers, young boys and girls, about 20, animated the mass in their white and yellow T-shirts and Kenyan-flag coloured skirts for the girls.

Besides President Kenyatta, First Lady Margaret, Deputy President William Ruto and his wife, Rachel, other top politicians who attended Thursday’s mass were Mr Kibaki, former Vice President Moody Awori, Cord leaders Minister Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka among others.

There was no collection of offering.