By: JOHN NJAGI
Pope Francis has sent a goodwill message to Kenyans, just three days ahead of his arrival in the country, as an opinion poll indicated that there was widespread enthusiasm for his visit.
Kenya will be the first stop in Africa when the Pope comes calling this week and he has expressed optimism that his visit will bring hope to man.
“Dear friends,” he said. “I send a word of greeting and friendship to you and your families.”
Saying he was visiting Kenya and Uganda as a minister of the gospel, the Pope emphasised that he was bringing a “message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace”.
He urged Christians to open up their hearts, especially to the poor and those in need.
“I want to offer everyone a word of encouragement,” he said in the message prepared by Centro Televisivo Vaticano.
He called for mutual understand across all religions and for believers “to support each other as members of our one human family”.
He said the highlight of his visit will be his meeting with young people at the Kasarani Stadium and expressed hope that the youth will be part of a future of “hope, peace and progress”.
“I ask everyone to pray that my stay in Kenya and Uganda will be a source of hope and encouragement to all.”
In Nairobi on Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta also asked Kenyans to embrace peace, reconciliation and forgiveness as the nation prepares to receive the Pope.
“I believe there are great times ahead for all of us,” the President said.
“All we need is to believe in one another, to trust one another and most importantly, for all of us to have faith in our Lord.”
He was speaking at the Apostles of Jesus Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Karen, where he received one of the world’s largest replicas of the Ark of the Covenant.
A POPULAR LEADER
The President said that the ark was a symbol of peace and reconciliation.
According to an opinion poll published Sunday, almost all the respondents said they were excited with the Pope’s visit.
The excitement cuts across religions, regions, age and gender, with 93 per cent of those interviewed expressing excitement towards the Pope’s visit.
Among Catholics, 98 per cent said they were “extremely excited” about the visit, while 91 per cent of non-Catholics said they were “excited”.
“Pope Francis is admired by Kenyan Catholics and non-Catholics, who have embraced his optimism, humility and more inclusive tone,” said Ms Angela Ambitho, the managing director of Infotrak Research and Consulting, the company that conducted the survey in which 777 people were interviewed.
The respondents said they would want the Pope to speak about peaceful co-existence, good governance and human rights.
Bishop Alfred Rotich of the Catholic Church asked Kenyans to drive safely and mind others on the road during the Papal visit.
The church has promised all those who travel to Nairobi will get a chance to see the Holy Father and receive his apostolic blessings.
Preparations for the maiden Papal visit to Kenya were in high gear at the University of Nairobi Sunday, with bulldozers paving makeshift roads and workers bringing in required materials including chairs for an estimated 200,000 guests expected at the venue for the mass on Thursday.
Among the top government officials at the grounds to inspect the ongoing works included Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and the President’s spokesman Mr Manoah Esipisu.
“There will be auxiliary venues at Central Park and Uhuru Park,” said Mr Esipisu, who also said there will be no public holiday during the papal visit.
He said elaborate security measures had been put in place to ensure the success of the visit.
He asked those who encounter “any difficulties” moving out of town, or those who notice anything out of the ordinary to report to any police officers that will be at hand securing the event.
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said major roads would be closed and asked motorists to cooperate with the police on where to park their vehicles and how to access the venues hosting the Pope.