Pope Francis called for Kenya to support its families during his first public Mass in Africa.
In his homily, Francis urged the country to resist practices “which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women and threaten the life of innocent children”.
He also called on Kenyans to shape a more just society that looked out for the poor, and to “reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things are not of God”.
More than 200,000 faithful attended the Mass on the rain-soaked campus of the University of Nairobi. The celebration was marked by ululating Kenyan singers and traditional dancers.
Francis received a raucous welcome from the crowd as he zoomed around the grounds in his open-sided Popemobile, with some 10,000 police on hand for security. Some people had been there since 3am, braving heavy showers, while others lined up in queues two miles deep to get close to the venue.
“Kenyan society has long been blessed with strong family life, a deep respect for the wisdom of the elderly and love for children,” the Pope said.
“The health of any society depends on the health of its families.
“For their sake, and for the good of society, our faith in God’s word calls us to support families in their mission in society, to accept children as a blessing for our world, and to defend the dignity of each man and woman, for all of us are brothers and sisters.
“Christian families have this special mission: to radiate God’s love, and to spread the life-giving waters of his Spirit. This is especially important today, for we are seeing the growth of new deserts created by a culture of materialism and indifference to others.”
The Pope had begun his day by meeting various faith leaders at the nunciature, where he recalled the terrorists attacks carried out by the Islamist group al-Shabaab.
“All too often, young people are being radicalised in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies,” the Pope said. “How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace.”
Later that day Francis met priests, Religious and seminarians of Kenya, telling them: “When we were called, we were not canonised.” Each priest and Religious, he explained, continued to be in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Pope: don’t destroy our world
The international community is facing a stark and serious choice, “either to improve or to destroy the environment”, Pope Francis said last week during a visit to the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi.
“It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were special interests to prevail over the common good,” the Pope said, referring to the climate change summit in Paris.
Francis spoke at length about the importance of the summit and his senior aides had a meeting with Kenya’s environment minister and other officials to discuss their hopes for the meeting.
On his way to the UN offices Francis also planted a tree. In his speech the Pope said that there was a close connection between environmental destruction and economic and political policies that penalised the poor.
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