Pope Francis Thursday appealed to Somali Islamist militants who killed 148 people at Garissa University College two weeks ago to stop their brutality and “come to their senses”.
He told Kenyan bishops visiting the Vatican that he prayed for those killed by acts of terror, ethnic and tribal hostilities in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.
“I think most especially of the men and women killed at Garissa University College on Good Friday,” the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics said. “May those who commit such brutality come to their senses and seek mercy.”
The gunmen killed Christians while sparing Muslims during the attack. The Pope, who has repeatedly expressed concern about Christians being targeted over their faith, also condemned the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya in February.
He urged the visiting bishops to work with Christian and non-Christian leaders to promote peace in Kenya.
The Kenyan Catholic bishops are at the Holy See to give a briefing of how the Church has performed in the country.
Led by Cardinal John Njue, the delegation of more than 30 serving and retired bishops left the country on Saturday following a special invitation by the Pope.
They are expected to give reports on the state of the Kenyan archdioceses and dioceses as they receive suggestions and counsel from their host.
During one of the meetings, the recent attacks on the Church in Kenya took centre-stage, with the Pope condemning the act and condoling with the bereaved.
He called on church leaders to put more effort into working with Christian and non-Christian leaders in promoting peace and justice in the country through dialogue, fraternity and friendship.
“In this way, you will be able to offer a more unified and courageous denunciation of all violence, especially that committed in the name of God. This will bring deeper reassurance and solace to all your fellow citizens,” he added.
This year, the Pope said the ordinary synod would be dedicated to the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation.
“I pray that the forthcoming Jubilee of Mercy will be a time of great forgiveness, healing, conversion, and grace for the entire Church in Kenya. Touched by Christ’s infinite mercy, may all the faithful be signs of the reconciliation, justice and peace that God wills for your country, and indeed, all of Africa,” he added.
In his speech that mainly dwelt on evangelism challenges such as the rise of religious fundamentalism and terror attacks targeting mainly Christians in the country, Njue said the last 10 years had seen an alarming trend of a rise in radical Islamic groups in Kenya.
On sustenance of pastoral work, the delegation said there was need for re-evangelisation through holistic pastoral formation in Kenya. They said the Church was grappling with the challenge of forming the lay faithful, the religious and clergy amid limited resources.
On corruption and tribal politics, the Pope was told that the Church advocates for dialogue in an attempt to restore integrity.
Njue asked the Pope to visit Kenya in a bid to boost the local Christians’ faith in these difficult times when many families have lost their loved ones to terrorist attacks.
Kenyan bishops were last invited to the Vatican in November 2007.
Those in the delegation are bishops Philip Anyolo (Homa Bay), Zacchaeus Okoth (Kisumu), Martin Kivuva (Mombasa), Paul Darmanin (Garissa), Cornelius Korir (Eldoret) and Nairobi’s David Ng’ang’a.
Among the retired were Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki, John Njenga and Philip Sulumeti.
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