NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Amid tight security, Pope Francis arrived late afternoon Wednesday (Nov. 25) to a jubilant reception.
He was greeted at the Nairobi airport by sounds of Catholic Church choirs and traditional dancers singing African tunes and beating drums.
But beyond the fanfare, Francis zeroed in on three serious themes: encouraging Africa’s youth, protecting the environment for the next generation and working to eliminate government corruption.
Francis will be in Kenya Nov. 25-27, and will meet youth, diplomats, and an interfaith delegation. He will also visit Nairobi’s Kangemi slums.
Anticipation had been building up throughout the day with TV and radio stations offering minute-by-minute updates on the pope’s travel.
“Kenya is a young and vibrant nation, a richly diverse society which plays a significant role in the region,” said Francis in his address. “Yours too is a nation of young people. I look forward to meeting many of them, speaking with them, and encouraging their hopes and aspirations for the future.”
He said young people are any nation’s most valuable resource and to protect them, invest in them and offer them a helping hand, were the best ways their future could be assured.
Speaking on what he termed as a grave environmental crisis facing the world today, Francis said greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature is a necessity.
“We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations,” he said.
With Kenya facing serious corruption scandals, Francis encouraged Kenyans to work with integrity and transparency and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level.
“I ask you in particular to show genuine concern for the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young, and a just distribution of the natural and human resources,” he said.
In his address, President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya’s situation combined great opportunity with great challenge — challenges similar to those faced by the churches.
“Kenya’s future stands on upholding the highest integrity in governance, inclusivity and the protection of peace,” said Kenyatta, while asking for prayers.
On Thursday, nearly 1.4 million people are expected to attend the pope’s Mass on the University of Nairobi grounds.
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