We pay extra cash and in kind to be served, youth tell Pope Francis


It took Emmanuel Mwonga about one month to get his message for the Pope from the Kenyan youth together.

“It was a heavy task,” was all he could say at the end of the Pope’s meeting with the youth at the stadium at Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani. But it was also the chance of a lifetime for the 22-year-old fashion designer.

Emmanuel and Linet Wambui, a Fourth Year student of Library and Information Sciences at Kenyatta University, had been selected to present the youth’s messages to Pope Francis.

They had both consulted their friends and coming from the National Youth Council, had also had the opportunity to collate the opinions of their friends and age mates.

They sat with bishops and priests at the tent at the centre, with the President and the governors and the Catholic bishops on either side.

From their presentations, the biggest challenges facing the youth and the country today are tribalism and corruption. Social media, which has many young people stuck to phones every minute they are free, has also proved to be a major distraction.

Emmanuel and Linet gave Pope Francis a good idea of what the youth think about the country. When Linet said that “Sometimes to access services one has to pay extra cash and in kind,” it was a message that rung true.

But while they had come to hear the message from the man known in the Catholic Church as the Successor to Peter and Holy Father, they had also come ‘to see him with their own eyes.’

That necessitated overnight trips and long before 7am, they were alighting from buses and trekking towards Kenya’s largest stadium, in their best clothes and with white cards held close.

At the gates, policemen and National Youth Service (NYS) personnel asked to see the cards and directed them to the gates. The men were asked to remove their belts for the pat-down that is now common in Kenya courtesy of the extremists and their acts of terror.

Without much of a fuss, they headed to the gates and then up to the terraces, coming out into a stadium vibrating with a lively atmosphere. The weather had also obliged and unlike those who attended the mass on Thursday, no umbrellas were needed on Friday.

They were kept busy with music, dancing and chanting, coordinated by youth from Don Bosco Church in Upper Hill, known throughout Nairobi Diocese for their lively animation of the Mass and when the stadium was half full, they started practicing the Mexican wave.

The entry of President Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta was greeted with cheering.

After the bishops had arrived and were sat, the masters of ceremonies saw a chance to excite the crowds and coaxed them to come dance at the front.

They had asked for one and Bishop Maurice Muhatia obliged, but he was soon followed by five others.

That had excited the crowd but the cheering increased when President Kenyatta and the First Lady decided to lead a jig, forming the head of a train of dancers in that unique Kenyan style.

By: the time the Pope arrived, the crowd was sufficiently excited and wave upon Mexican wave followed.

The banners were unfurled, the flags waved and the masters of ceremonies’ exhortations to “show the Pope some love” were superfluous.

The official proceedings began with the singing of the Ave Maria – a prayer to the Virgin Mary – by the Korogocho Classical Orchestra.

When the time to speak came, the crowd fell silent and as the chief guest left aboard the Pope mobile, driven round the stadium on the track, he was cheered like a superstar.

For Emmanuel, who has already realised he is not “called” to priesthood, he can go back to Ekalakala parish in Masinga a happy man. So, too, the thousands of youth who saw the Pope for themselves.