Kenya ready for Pope Francis as he begins first visit to Africa

Pope Francis leaves Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Nairobi, Kenya today. He is expected to arrive at the “Jomo Kenyatta” International Airport (JKIA) at 17:00 GMT after which a welcoming ceremony would be held at the State House.

Preparations are in top gear to receive the Argentine head of the Catholic Church who is visiting Africa for the first time. The Acting Managing Director of Kenya Airports was pictured overseeing final preparations at JKIA to welcome the pope. An altar has also been specially built for the Papal Mass at the University of Nairobi expected to be attended by over 1.5 million faithful. The streets of the East African city are filled with billboards announcing the pope’s visit while volunteers are often seen, over the past few weeks, getting venues to be used to host the pope ready. Security has been beefed up as authorities are trying their best to ensure the pope’s visit is peaceful. Kenya has also declared Thursday (Nov. 26) a public holiday and marked it a day of national prayer and reflection.

Africa is an important part of the Catholic Church. Catholicism has grown by 238 percent on the continent. With global population expected to increase by about 372 million from 2015 to 2050 and much of that growth projected to be coming from Africa, the future growth of Catholicism depends largely on the region.

In a message ahead of his visit, Pope Francis said a highlight of his visit would be his meetings with young people who he called Africa’s “greatest resource and our most promising hope for a future of solidarity, peace and progress”.

Pope Francis in Africa
Pope Francis boards a plane at Fiumicino Airport in Rome November 25, 2015. Pope Francis steps onto African soil for the first time on Wednesday to address the continent’s fast-growing Catholic congregation during a trip that will test his ability to bridge faultlines between Christians and Muslims.REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

He called for prayers that his stay in Kenya and Uganda would be a source of hope and encouragement to all.

While in Kenya, His Holiness will pay a courtesy visit to the President Uhuru Kenyatta at the State House in Nairobi and meet with the Public Authorities of Kenya and the Diplomatic Corps. He will also hold an inter-religious and ecumenical meeting and also an holy mass. He will later meet with Clergy, Men and Women Religious and Seminarians before visiting the United Nations Office at Nairobi. He will also visit the poor Kangemi area in Nairobi and meet with the youth at Kasarani Stadium.

The Pope will also meet with Bishops of Kenya. He leaves Kenya for Uganda on Friday, November 27.

Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to Africa will highlight the problems of peaceful coexistence and dialogue between Christianity and Islam as both religions grow fast on the continent. The pope will, to the best of his ability, try to bridge the volatile fault line between them.

A volunteer sweeps the altar specially built for the Papal Mass ahead of the visit of Pope Francis in Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
A volunteer sweeps the altar specially built for the Papal Mass ahead of the visit of Pope Francis in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya