By: VINCENT ACHUKA
Catholics and other Kenyans across the country who will not be able to travel to Nairobi to attend the Papal Mass on Thursday will be able to follow proceedings on television streaming the event live at selected centres.
Although the rest of the country, just like the world, would still be able to follow the proceedings live from the comfort of their living rooms, the plan by the Kenyan Catholic Church is to enable as many of its members as possible to celebrate the Papal Mass in a church.
These last-minute changes by Kenya’s largest denomination, ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis on Wednesday, were made after consultations with its Vatican headquarters to ensure that religious activities across its 935 parishes and 6,000 Mass centres go on uninterrupted despite the large number of priests required to be present on Thursday.
“There will be a stand-by priest within a certain radius anywhere in the country to take care of emergencies and pastoral needs,” Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesman David Omwoyo told the Sunday Nation.
Apart from the main Mass area at the University of Nairobi grounds, the St Mary’s School in Lavington, Central Park, Uhuru Park and Nyayo Stadium will be used as Mass centres.
At least 1,500 priests will offer Holy Communion during the Papal Mass in these Mass centres where the faithful would be following the proceedings.
The church also wants all its faithful in the parishes to follow the Mass just like they were present at these five areas regardless of where they are.
“People will still be able to follow the Mass from parishes although we are yet to decide if Communion would also be offered simultaneously during the Papal mass,” said Mr Omwoyo.
Part of the changes also include shelving an earlier plan to erect screens across the entire 5km-stretch between the University of Nairobi where the main Mass will be held, and the Nyayo Stadium that would have allowed Kenyans to follow the proceedings live.
Instead, due to security reasons five areas are being prepared to be used as Mass centres where Kenyans would follow the proceedings from.
A security cordon will be thrown around them in what would collectively be known as the ‘Papal Mass Zone’.
The Papal Mass Zone will be a highly secure area that will form a ring starting from the ABC Place on Waiyaki Way southwards through James Gichuru Road to the Junction Shopping Mall then to Nairobi West through Ngong Road and Mbagathi Way and back to the ABC Place through Landhies Road and Waiyaki Way.
Some of the roads marked for closure at different times during the three-day visit are Dennis Pritt, Ring Road Kileleshwa, Valley Road and Ngong Road. Others are Waiyaki Way at the Museum Hill, University Way, Haile Sellasie, Uhuru Highway and Bunyala Road.
“Security has been revised and part of the changes the government and the church saw necessary is to double the number of security personnel because the importance of the Pope’s security is not something you can gamble with,” said Mr Omwoyo.
“A number of our VIP security personnel arrived from Rome recently. Every member of the Pope’s security will be paired with a Kenyan counterpart.”
Members of the Pope’s elite security team, known as the Swiss Guard, arrived on Friday on two flights in the evening and spent the whole of Saturday inspecting venues and roads that the Pontiff is expected to use.
Father Stephen Okello, the coordinator of the steering committee who was also in charge of coordinating Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1995, told the Sunday Nation that the Papal security team was so far satisfied with the preparations they had done.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION