The significance of the visit by Pope Francis in Kenya was demonstrated by the grand reception he received at a function that was attended by, among others, Kenya’s former Heads of State.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was joined by his predecessors Mwai Kibaki and Daniel Moi in welcoming Pope Francis to Kenya.
Retired presidents Moi and Kibaki were seen heartily engaging as they awaited the arrival of Pope Francis at State House, where he addressed various leaders and members of the diplomatic corps.
The retired presidents were seated next to one another on the front row during the brief meeting at State House, which was addressed by President Kenyatta and the Pope.
Of the three, only Moi had hitherto come this close to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, as he thrice hosted the 264th Catholic Church leader, Pope John Paul II, during his reign.
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Moi hosted Pope John Paul II, who is regarded as the most widely travelled leader of the Church, during his maiden visit to the country in 1980, before getting the honour of playing host to the Pope in his two other visits in 1985 and the last one 10 years later in 1995.
Though Kibaki assumed power during the last years of the life of John Paul II, before his death on April 2, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, who succeeded him on April 19, 2005, did not visit Kenya during his slightly over eight years of reign up to February 28, 2013, when he resigned.
However, Kibaki, who is a Catholic, appeared to make capital of Pope Francis historic visit as he followed up the Wednesday meeting at State House by attending the Mass presided over by the Catholic Church leader at the University of Nairobi grounds yesterday, where in a rare gesture, he even partook of the sacrament.