Nov. 30 (GIN) –The head of the Catholic Church, making a historic trip to three countries in Africa, stopped in Nairobi’s Kangemi “informal settlement”, one of the city’s 12 enormous slums where approximately 60 percent of the population resides.
With no sewage system and limited electricity, about 200,000 people live in Kangemi under tin roofs, on steep slopes rolling down to the Nairobi River.
After riding to St. Joseph the Worker, a Jesuit-run church, in his popemobile, Pope Francis waded through the crowds, grasping the hands of parishioners, amidst singing and drumming.
Before his address, a short video of Kenya’s dismal “informal settlements” was shown.
Following a short welcome in the local language, and testimonies from church leaders of the “evictions, fires and floods”, unaffordable schools fees, overall insecurity, the taking of land, the Pope rose to condemn land grabbing and the denial of basic services.
The urban poor, Francis said, were being denied a “sacred right” to lands, jobs and housing. “These are the wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and rundown peripheries.”
Speaking in Spanish, he referred to “ideological colonization”, saying that population-control policies were being imposed to protect the high-consumption lifestyles of richer nations.
His next trip to Uganda took him to the Namugongo shrines, dedicated to the Anglican and Catholic converts in Uganda who were burned, speared and tortured by a local king after they refused to renounce their Christian beliefs. Twenty-two Catholic martyrs were canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
His visit disappointed some gay activists who see a growing threat of violence against homosexuals. Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda said the pope had talked about the subject in private meetings. “If nothing comes out, it’s not him as a person, it’s the Vatican or the Catholic Church, Mr. Mugisha said. “In his heart, I think it is something he would have loved to talk about.”
Elsewhere, the Pope visited with HIV-infected children at a Uganda hospital and kissed each one, listened to moving testimony from a girl born with the virus and thanked the church’s health care workers for caring for those infected.
Finally, the last leg of his trip took him to the Central African Republic where he spoke to Muslims who sought shelter in the PK5 district of the capital Bangui.
He later celebrated Mass in Bangui, and urged people to arm themselves “with justice, love, mercy and authentic peace”…”Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, ‘salaam,’ ” the pope said, using the Arabic word for peace.