By: DOMINIC WAMUGUNDA
We Kenyans are a privileged and blessed lot.
Back in 1980 when I was a young seminarian in Rome, Pope John Paul II called all the Africans who were in Rome at the time to a meeting during which he announced that he was going to visit Africa for the first time.
Kenya was among the countries he visited that time and he came to us two other times during his papacy.
Now Pope Francis is coming to Africa next week. His first port of call will be Kenya.
FIRST POPE FROM LATIN AMERICA
From the little I have seen, this man Francis is somewhat different from any pope we have seen for quite some time.
To begin with he is the first one from Latin America and that perhaps makes him the kind of shepherd he is.
In the late 1970s and 1980s there was in Latin America the theological inclination that is referred to as liberation theology.
Even though it was fought hard by the Vatican, it did leave behind a certain way of applying theological thinking to the understanding of real life situations that is decidedly different from the way westerners would think.
Francis brings some freshness into church life that can only compare to that shift that was introduced by Pope John XXIII when he called the second Vatican Council mid last century.
Pope Paul VI who followed tried his best under the circumstances to implement the decisions of the Council.
After him came John Paul I who had no time to do anything for he died 33 days after being elected Pope.
He was followed by John Paul II who was around for quite some time.
It was in my view during this period and that of Benedict XVI that things started slipping back.
EMPHASIS ON COMPASSION
One area in which Francis seems to announce a paradigm shift is the emphasis he seems to lay on compassion.
The church cannot be authentic to its mission if it is only guided by rules, regulations and juridical thinking in the discharge of her mandate in the world.
It is compassion as was demonstrated by Jesus Christ that will carry the day.
What those who are different — gays, lesbians, divorcees and the like — need is compassion and not judgment. Pope Francis has made that quite clear.
One of the major hindrances to the ability of the church to authentically live and execute her mission in the world is clericalism.
The Latin American brand of theology that I mentioned above tended to get rid of it by emphasising ministry by all in everything.
That is perhaps why Pope Francis can see issues such as the environment as part of his ministry.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION