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Uhuru 'upbeat' about Pope's maiden visit as Vatican warns on CAR violence

By Daniel Psirmoi and John Karume | November 2nd 2015

The Government is working closely with the Catholic Church to make sure the upcoming three-day visit by His Holiness Pope Francis is a success, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

The Head of State, through his spokesman Manoah Esipisu, Sunday said he was ‘upbeat’ about the maiden visit by the Holy Father later this month and assured Kenyans that the visit will be smooth.

Speaking at a joint press briefing at Harambee House in Nairobi with Bishop Alfred Rotich of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, the State’s partners in organising the Pope’s historic visit to our country, Mr Esipisu said the committee in charge of the papal tour had made credible progress.

“We are working very closely with the Church in making this a very successful visit. His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta has pronounced himself on this visit and he calls it ‘a significant moment for Kenya’,” said Esipisu.

He explained that the steering committee made up of State and non-state actors had made progress with intensive logistical plans mapping out every detail of the visit.

“Teams from the Catholic Church in Kenya and at the Vatican and the Government continue to work together as the maiden tour nears. We are deeply committed to ensure there are no hitches in the papal visit,” added the Statehouse spokesman.

He explained that the global leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, would speak about peace, inclusivity and religious tolerance. He added that the Pope was also expected to speak about the fight against poverty and climate change.

Official branding

“These issues are obviously relevant for Kenya in this season. The official branding around me reflects our shared belief in these principles, which are also embedded in our national anthem,” he observed.

According to Esipisu, Pope Francis will land in the country on November 25 and be received by President Kenyatta who is a Catholic himself, and other senior Government officials and church leaders.

“The Holy Father will later be hosted at State House by President Kenyatta, where they will hold bilateral talks. Thereafter, they will make a special address to the nation at the same venue,” said Esipisu.

The pontiff will have an inter-religious meeting at the Nuncio’s residence (the Pope’s representative in Kenya) and then head out to the University of Nairobi to celebrate Holy Mass. He will later on address the Catholic community at St Mary’s and thereafter address members of the diplomatic corps at the United Nations in Gigiri.

On the last day of his visit, His Holiness will address youth from across the country at Kasarani stadium and thereafter visit Kangemi residents to assess the Catholic Church’s work in this community.

Speaking at the same press briefing, Bishop Rotich who is the chairman of the secretariat in charge of the Pope’s visit, appealed to politicians in the country to stop mud-slinging in respect of the papal tour.

“As we begin the final countdown to the arrival of the Holy Father, we declare and demand an honest ceasefire and an end to incessant name-calling among our politicians,” he said.

“We urge an end to the ethnic undertones and inciting remarks by leaders who are elected to protect the welfare of the people,” he added, noting it would not augur well if leaders continued spewing hate speech and abusing each other, when the Pope would be preaching a message of love.

At the same time, John Cardinal Njue has said preparations for Pope Francis’s tour were in top gear.

Cardinal Njue said the special committee set up to spearhead preparations for the visit was on schedule for Pope Francis’ first visit to Africa.

“It will be a real blessing for the church and the nation at large with Pope coming to visit us, he will bring a message of peace and hope to the nation,” said cardinal Njue.

Cardinal Njue was speaking in Ndumberi on Saturday afternoon when Kiambu deanery, which is made up of eight parishes, was celebrating its family day. Archbishop Njue said the church would soon start holding masses to pray for the Pope’s visit.

Full details

He at the same time noted that since he had been away for a month, he would be in a better position to give full details of the papal visit once he was fully briefed today.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis Sunday indicated that his planned visit to the Central African Republic this month could be cancelled if violence between Christians and Muslims there worsens.

Speaking to tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square, he called for an end to the “cycle of violence” in the country he is scheduled to visit on November 28 and 29 as part of a trip that will also take him to Kenya and Uganda.

The pontiff spoke of the “trip I hope to be able to make to that nation”. He had previously said he would go. A senior Vatican source said the phrasing was chosen because of the violence in the capital Bangui, where the Pope is scheduled to visit a mosque in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods.

“If the situation worsens, he will not be able to go and he is aware of that,” the source said.

Last Thursday, four people were killed by mobs, bringing last week’s death toll to 11.

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