Tight security at Pontiff residence

By: BERNARD NAMUNANE

The Apostolic Nunciature, the house where Pope Francis’s representative in Kenya stays, is usually a quiet place.

However, since Wednesday, the area on Manyani Road, Lavington has become no-go zone even for residents who are used to their leafy surroundings.

This is the address Pope Francis has taken residence on his first tour of Africa.

From the Waiyaki Way junction regular, Administration and GSU police officers were on patrol.

Even though the pontiff said he was less concerned about threats to his security, the government has taken measures to keep the Pope from harm’s way.

On a rainy Thursday morning, police officers outside the residence were armed and wore bullet-proof jackets.

Closer to the residence, the security presence is more pronounced, with more officers keeping away Kenyans who had woken up early, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pope on his way to the University of Nairobi for mass.

As Vatican-accredited journalists, we were waved on to the residence and drove past in a National Youth Service bus and a police car ahead of us.

A few metres past the Nunciature’s gate, the road was blocked.

Two ambulances were stationed metres from the gate as were GSU officers.

Passers-by were thoroughly frisked and many were turned back.

At the gate, a team of elite police officers from the Presidential Security were in command.

A few people were gathered at the gate, most of them men of the cloth, bidding their time to get in.

CLIMATE CHANGE

We waited for almost 30 minutes before team leader from the Holy See press office, Matteo Bruni, was allowed into the Nunciature.

Pope John Paul II stayed at the residence in 1980, 1985 and 1995.

A simple two-storey house and a garage are the only buildings on the vast compound, which could give an aspiring conservationist a lesson on tree planting.

It resonates very well with the mission that Francis has chosen to pursue during his papacy — climate change.

A foreign journalist marvelled at a huge cactus tree and took snapshots.

At the entrance to the house was the Popemobile of the day, a Toyota Hilux pick-up covered in a brown canvass with SCV1, (Latin for Status Civitatis Vaticanae, or Vatican City) as its number plate.

Guarding the door to the house were four security officers in civilian clothes who flew in with the Pope from Rome.

Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop Peter Kairo of Nyeri, Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay and Military Ordinate Bishop Alfred Rotich turned up and were ushered in.

Religious leaders from other faiths also came at the Nunciature.

In the compound was a KBC van, preparing for live transmission of the meeting between the religious leaders and Pope Francis.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION