Former President Daniel Moi with Pope John Paul II [Photo: File]

Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) was once a bouncer in his native Argentina where he studied philosophy at the Catholic University of Buenos Aires and has a masters in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires. The tango lover taught literature, psychology, philosophy and theology, before becoming Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Did you know he’s the first Jesuit Pope, the first from the Americas and the first non-European Pope since Syrian Gregory III in 741? That’s over 1,200 years, right? He chose the name Francis in honour of St Francis of Assisi, “the man of poverty,” although that’s not the reason he once preferred travelling economy.

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There has not been any other Pope Francis before him! By the way, the man who wakes up at 4:30am and travels light was a club bouncer a job he took up to pay his college fee. Before he was the late Pope John Paul II, who made three visits to Kenya: 1980, 1985 and 1995, all during the reign of retired President Moi.

The 1980 visit came two years after he became Pope, succeeding Pope John Paul I who was murdered as he tried to rid the Vatican of cardinals with Mafia connections and church bankers who laundered cocaine money via the Vatican Bank besides investing even with contraceptive manufacturers (against Catholic stand on birth control, as David Yallop notes in his 1984 book, In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I.

Did you know the 1985 Papal visit was specifically to celebrate the 43rd Eucharistic Congress marked in Uhuru Park that Sunday of August 18 and that it was the second in Africa after Tunisia hosted the first 55 years earlier?

The Eucharistic Congress began in the late 1800s to celebrate the church’s sacraments and compare notes on church problems. The 43rd Eucharistic Congress whose theme was ‘The Eucharist and the Christian Family” was also attended by Mother Teresa, Philippine’s Cardinal Sin, Uganda’s then-President Godfrey Binaisa and over 50,000 faithfuls. The late Cardinal Maurice Otunga called it ‘Spiritual Olympics’ of prayers and celebration!

The conical slab at Uhuru Park was erected to mark the spot where Pope John Paul II held the mass which the pontiff used to rally for the ‘Africanisation of the Catholic Church in Africa.’ But alas! organisers had less spiritual issues to contend with as they warned attendees to watch out for pickpockets, besides cautioning hookers that the Congress was not ‘a ‘festival of flesh’ and thus should not turn Nairobi into ‘Sodom and Gomorrah!’

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But the Congress ended on a high note as Pope John Paul II closed the mass: “May Christ in the Eucharist, as ‘the grain of wheat’ fallen on the soil of Africa, bring forth in his body the Church a rich harvest for eternal life!’ Amen.