IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenKAMPALA, Uganda (CNS) -- As Pope Francis encouraged Ugandan
Christians to draw inspiration from the 19th-century Ugandan Martyrs, he
carried with him graphic images of the horrors the 45 Anglican and Catholic
The pope made an early morning visit Nov. 28 to the Anglican
shrine and museum located on the site where many of the martyrs died. The main
exhibit features realistic statues of men being tortured, bound and thrown on a
Pope Francis had a look of shock on his face as Anglican
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda explained how the martyrs were executed on
the orders of King Mwanga II in the late 1800s.
Afterward, the pope celebrated a Mass outside the nearby
Catholic shrine to the martyrs. The shrine has an artificial lake, and Ugandan
security patrolled it in a little rubber boat throughout the liturgy.
In his homily, Pope Francis honored all the martyrs, noting
that they shared the same faith in Jesus and they offer a witness to "the
ecumenism of blood."
Honoring the martyrs is not something to be done only on
their feast day, he said, but must be done daily through upright behavior and
loving care for others in the family, the neighborhood, at work and in society.
Keeping one's eyes focused on God, he said, "does not
diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come.
Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world and helps us to reach out
to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good and to build a
more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God's gift of life and
protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home."
Heart-breaking modern challenges to faith led Pope Francis
to abandon the text he had prepared for an afternoon meeting with Ugandan
youths. Instead, he tried to respond directly to the young woman and young man
who addressed him, although the effort was plagued by technical problems with
Winnie Nansumba, 24, told the pope she was born HIV-positive
and, "as a young woman, I always found it hard to fall in love because I
thought I didn't have a right to love and be loved."
In the end, she said, she decided to use her story to teach
other youths about HIV and AIDS, particularly that "we must respect our
life and that of others," changing behavior to prevent the spread of the
"Take charge of your life and know your (HIV)
status," she told the estimated 150,000 youths gathered at the Kololo
airstrip to see the pope. "AIDS is real, but it can be prevented and
More than 7 percent of Ugandan adults are HIV-positive and
tens of thousands continue to be infected each year. According to U.N. AIDS,
because of sexual violence and lack of access to education, young women are
particularly in danger in Uganda. U.N. figures estimate that 4.2 percent of
Ugandan women aged 15-24 are HIV-positive while 2.4 percent of men that age
Pope Francis did not speak specifically about AIDS or its
prevention, but spoke instead about overcoming despair and depression and fighting
for one's life.
He also went on at length about courage, referring both to
Nansumba and to Emmanuel Odokonyero, who had talked about being kidnapped by
the rebel Lord's Resistance Army in 2003, tortured and escaping after three
From the late 1980s and for more than 20 years, the Lord's
Resistance Army terrorized Uganda, kidnapping thousands of children and forcing
hundreds of thousands of people to seek safety in camps for displaced persons.
"In your veins the blood of martyrs flows," the
pope told the two youths. "That is why your faith is so strong."
The pope urged the young people to find positive challenges
in the negative events of their lives, to trust Jesus to transform their
suffering into joy and to turn to Mary when experiencing pain, just like a
child runs to his or her mother after falling and getting hurt.
In the early evening the pope visited the House of Charity
in Kampala's Nalukolongo neighborhood; the Good Shepherd Sisters run a home
there for 102 elderly and people with severe disabilities. The residents range
in age from 11 years to 107 years, said Bishop Robert Muhiirwa of Fort Portal,
chair of the Ugandan bishops' health commission.
"Our families need to become ever more evident signs of
God's patient and merciful love, not only for our children and elders, but for
all those in need," the pope said. "Our parishes must not close their
doors or their ears to the cry of the poor. This is the royal road of Christian
Meeting with Uganda's priests, religious and seminarians 11
hours after his day had begun, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of
remembering the martyrs by witnessing to the faith like they did, by remaining
faithful to their vocations and by praying.
The pope publicly thanked the Good Shepherd Sisters for the
"example of fidelity" they showed him at the House of Charity,
"fidelity to the poor, the infirm and the disabled because Christ is
Ugandan soil, "bathed by the blood of martyrs,"
always will need new witnesses to faith, he told the priests and religious.
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IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenKAMPALA, Uganda (CNS) -- Witnessing
to what is true, good and beautiful -- even if that witness is motivated by
different faiths -- brings people together and strengthens a nation, Pope
Arriving in Uganda from Kenya Nov.
27, Pope Francis was greeted by a number of dance troupes playing drums as well
as traditional horns and stringed instruments. Many of the dancers wore rattles
on their calves, and some of the men wore the skins of the spotted hyena around
While the pope fulfilled the
protocol duty of reviewing the military troops, he could not pass by the dance
troupes without thanking them, especially the children.
Pope Francis went from the airport
to the State House in Entebbe, where he immediately drew people's attention to
the Ugandan Martyrs -- 23 Anglicans and 22 Catholics -- executed by King Mwanga
II of Buganda between November 1885 and January 1887.
"They remind us of the
importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have
played and continue to play in the cultural economic and political life of this
country," the pope told President Yoweri Museveni, other government
officials and members of the diplomatic corps.
The martyrs, he said, "also
remind us that despite our different beliefs and convictions, all of us are
called to seek the truth, to work for justice and reconciliation and to
respect, protect and help one another as members of our one human family."
On the third evening of his
three-nation trip to Africa, Pope Francis said he wanted to draw attention to
Africa as a whole, and not just to the continent's problems. He praised Uganda
particularly for welcoming refugees and allowing them to work.
"Our world, caught up in
wars, violence and various forms of injustice is witnessing an unprecedented
movement of peoples," he said. "How we deal with them is a test of
our humanity, our respect for human dignity and above all our solidarity with
our brothers and sisters in need."
As he did earlier in Kenya, the
pope also urged African leaders to dedicate themselves to ensuring education
and employment for their young people, the majority of the continent's population.
Pope Francis said his prayer was
that all Ugandans "will always prove worthy of the values which have
shaped the soul of your nation."
The exuberance of the dancers at
the airport was only a tiny hint of the welcome Uganda had in store for the
pope: Hundreds of thousands of people waited for hours along the entire 27-mile
stretch of road leading from the State House to the Munyonyo neighborhood of
Munyonyo is the place where King
Mwanga condemned the martyrs to death. As the dark of night settled in outside
a shrine run by the Conventual Franciscans, Pope Francis greeted hundreds of
catechists holding candles.
He told the representatives of
Uganda's 14,000 catechists -- many of whom administer remote communities that
have no priest -- that theirs is a holy work.
"Thank you for the sacrifices
which you and your families make," he told them. It is particularly
beautiful that they teach children to pray and help parents raise their
children in the faith.
To be effective, Pope Francis
said, a catechist must be an example of love, faith and mercy and not just a
good and eloquent teacher.
The pope told the catechists to be
strong like the martyrs, "go forth without fear to every town and village
in this country to spread the good seed of God's word."
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IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenNAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The
wealth of residents of the poorest neighborhoods ringing big cities around the
world will never be quoted on the stock exchange, even though their wealth gives
life and joy to millions of people, Pope Francis said.
The pope began his day Nov. 27
in Nairobi's Kangemi neighborhood, usually referred to as a slum. It features
tiny dwellings made of cinder block, tin or reclaimed boards. The homes are
jumbled together with dirt roads and paths running between them.
Residents were thrilled not only
that the pope would take time to visit them, but that the government fixed
several of the roads, installed some street lights and unblocked some water
pipes in preparation for the pope's visit.
Exact figures vary, but between
55 percent and 65 percent of Nairobi's population live in the slums. Many have
no drinking water, electricity, sewage system or regular garbage collection.
Irish Mercy Sister Mary Killeen,
who has ministered in Kenya for three decades, told Pope Francis that fires --
especially from kerosene lamps and stoves -- and floods are a danger. Evictions
are frequent since the people do not own the land on which their shacks are
At a meeting in the Jesuit-run
St. Joseph the Worker Church, Pamella Akwede, a resident, told the pope, "People
in informal settlements live together as family, in unity and solidarity,"
which is evident in the celebrations of births, weddings and funerals.
"Any resident of any
informal settlement survives on less than a dollar a day," she said, but
fresh fruits are available and "one can get their stomach full on a cup of
tea and doughnut" for the equivalent of 19 cents.
Most of the people in Kangemi
and the other slums of Nairobi work in factories, Akwede said, but they do not
earn enough to pay for rent in a better neighborhood.
Pope Francis told the people
gathered in the church that he had an obligation to denounce the injustices
that keep the slum dwellers living in such desperate circumstances, but he also
urged the people to recognize the values they have and that the world needs: Solidarity, celebration, taking
care to bury the dead, making more room at one's simple table and taking in the
sick all are characteristic of people in the world's poorest neighborhoods.
Such values, he said, are "grounded
in the fact that each human being is more important than the god of money.
Thank you for reminding us that another type of culture is possible."
While those values "are not
quoted in the stock exchange," Pope Francis said, they are the true "signs
of good living."
But the problems faced in the
makeshift communities "are not a random combination of unrelated problems,"
he said; they are "the consequence of new forms of colonialism,"
which see African countries as "cogs on a gigantic wheel" and a
storehouse of natural resources to plunder.
African nations, he said, "are
frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like
those aimed at lowering the birth rate."
Pope Francis denounced the
ridiculously high rent that absentee landlords charge for "utterly unfit
housing" in the slum. He also insisted that governments have an obligation
to ensure their citizens have "toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection,
electricity" and access to schools, hospitals and open space for
To a strong round of applause,
the pope also insisted that access to drinking water be provided in the slums. "Access
to safe, drinkable water is a basic and universal human right," he said.
The pope gave special
recognition to the women of Kangemi and the other informal settlements. They
make heroic efforts not only to feed their children, but to protect them from
violence, crime and addiction -- all plagues common in the slums. The corrupt,
he said, use young people "as cannon fodder for their ruthless business
From Kangemi, Pope Francis went
to Nairobi's Kasarani Stadium for a meeting with the nation's young people. The
atmosphere was charged with excitement and infectious celebration; the Kenyan
bishops started line dancing after the youths did. Kenyan President Uhuru
Kenyatta and his wife arrived, going to the head of the line, dancing as they
went to their seats.
A young woman and young man
asked Pope Francis questions and, as they spoke, the pope took notes. In the
end, he set aside his prepared text and answered their questions, particularly
regarding the problems of tribalism and corruption.
"Tribalism destroys a
nation," he said. "Tribalism is keeping your hands behind your back
and holding in each hand a rock to throw at others."
"The ear, the heart and the
hand" are needed to overcome tribalism, the pope told the young people,
including many who were dressed in the traditional costumes of the Masai and
other ethnic groups.
People need to listen to each
other, ask each other about their history and customs, open their hearts to one
another and extend a hand in friendship.
He called his young questioners
to the podium and took their hands. Then he asked the estimated 70,000 young
people who filled the stadium to hold hands as well. "We are all a nation,"
he had them say. "No to tribalism."
As for corruption, the pope compared
it to sugar: It tastes good at first and it's easy to get, but it also can make
All institutions have people
tempted by corruption, the pope said, "including the Vatican."
He urged the young people to
have nothing to do with cheating or corruption; "don't develop a taste for
it," he said.
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IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenNAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The international community is
facing a stark and serious choice, "either to improve or to destroy the
environment," Pope Francis said, referring to the Paris Climate
"It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic,
were special interests to prevail over the common good," the pope said
Nov. 26 during a visit to the headquarters in Nairobi of the U.N. Environment
Program and U.N. Habitat, an agency concerned with urban planning.
Under the auspices of the United Nations, the Paris conference
Nov. 30-Dec. 11 has the aim of achieving a legally binding and universal
agreement on measures to stem climate change and protect the environment.
Pope Francis spoke at length about the importance of the
conference during his visit to the U.N. offices, and his top aides had a meeting the
evening before with Kenya's environment minister and other officials to discuss
their hopes and strategies for the Paris meeting.
On his way into the meeting with U.N. officials and
diplomats accredited to the two U.N. agencies, Pope Francis planted a tree.
While his speech contained ample quotes from his June
encyclical on the environment, the pope also referred several times to the significance of planting trees and borrowed several lines from a speech he made in
Bolivia in July to a variety of grass-roots movements advocating for justice for
In fact, just as in the encyclical, "Laudato Si',"
the pope insisted in Nairobi that there is a close connection between
environmental destruction and unjust economic and political policies that
penalize the poor.
"We are faced with a great political and economic
obligation to rethink and correct the dysfunctions and distortions of the
current model of development," he said, especially because of their
emphasis on exploiting natural resources, but not sharing the benefits with
Planting a tree, he said, is an "invitation to continue
the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification," as
well as "an incentive to keep trusting, hoping and above all working in
practice to reverse all those situations of injustice and deterioration which
we currently experience."
The Paris conference, the pope said, "represents an
important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends
on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of
energy sources with little or no carbon content."
Pope Francis told those gathered at Nairobi's U.N. offices
that he hopes the Paris conference will result in a "global and
'transformational' agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice,
equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and
interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty
and ensuring respect for human dignity."
To achieve a comprehensive and fair agreement, he said, real
dialogue is necessary among politicians, scientists, business leaders and
representatives of civil society, including the poorest sectors of those societies.
Pope Francis insisted that human beings are capable of changing
course, choosing what is good and making a fresh start. The key, he said, will
be to put the economy and politics at the service of people, who are called to
live in harmony with the rest of creation.
"Far from an idealistic utopia, this is a realistic
prospect which makes the human person and human dignity the point of departure
and the goal of everything," he said.
A new respect for human dignity and for the environment are
part of the same attitude of giving value to all that God made, he said.
Pope Francis called for "the adoption of a culture of
care -- care for oneself, care for others, care for the environment -- in the
place of a culture of waste, a throwaway culture where people use and discard
themselves, others and the environment."
The idea of a "throwaway culture" is not simply a
strong figure of speech, he said, pointing to "new forms of slavery, human
trafficking, forced labor, prostitution and trafficking in organs."
"Many lives, many stories, many dreams have been
shipwrecked in our day," the pope said. "We cannot remain indifferent
in the face of this. We have no right."
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IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenNAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Respect, unity and service are the
foundations of a strong family, a solid democracy and a healthy response to the
gift of faith -- any faith, Pope Francis told the people of Kenya.
Meeting ecumenical and interreligious leaders, celebrating a
large outdoor Mass and greeting priests, religious and seminarians in Nairobi
Nov. 26, Pope Francis insisted faith means serving one's fellow human beings.
The pope's day began early on the rainy morning with an
intimate meeting with 40 representatives of Kenya's Christian, Muslim, Jewish,
Sikh and Buddhist communities, as well as with a Masai elder and other leaders
of communities that have maintained their traditional African beliefs.
During the meeting in the Vatican nunciature, Pope Francis
remembered the terrorist attacks on Kenya's Westgate Mall in 2013, Garissa
University College in April and Mandera in July, and urged a common recognition
that "the God who we seek to serve is a God of peace." The
Somali-based militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for all three
attacks the pope mentioned.
"All too often, young people are being radicalized in
the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of
our societies," the pope said. "How important it is that we be seen
as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony
and mutual respect."
Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, chairman of the Supreme Council of
Kenya Muslims, greeted the pope as "a revolutionary-minded man of
God" on behalf of the country's Muslims, who, he said, make up about 30 percent
of the population.
"As people of one God and of this world," he told
the pope, "we must stand up and in unison clasp hands together in all the
things that are essential for our collective progress as one humanity, one
world irrespective of location, culture, language, race, ethnicity, status, politics
... for we are citizens of the same world."
Peace in the world is not possible without peace among
religions, he said, citing the work of "the German philosopher Hans
Kung," a Swiss priest whose authority to teach as a Catholic professor in
Germany was withdrawn by the Vatican.
The Muslim leader told Pope Francis and the other religious
authorities, "There is so much to talk about," but the pope's
schedule allotted only 45 minutes for the gathering. Still, El-Busaidy told
Pope Francis and the others, "I wish you success in achieving the vision
of a better world you have accepted for yourselves and for future generations.
Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala thanked the pope for the
Catholic Church's efforts to preserve "the apostolic faith" and its
commitment to defending marriage and family life "at a time when some of
these principles are being called into question."
The centrality of the family and the obligation to be
missionaries in word and deed were at the heart of Pope Francis' homily during
a Mass celebrated with more than 200,000 people on the grounds of the University
of Nairobi. Strong rains overnight and throughout the morning turned the campus
lawns into a muddy mess, but that did little to dampen the people's spirits as
they sang, swayed, danced and ululated.
The health of a society depends on the health of its families,
the pope said in his homily, which he read in Italian. Msgr. Mark Miles, an
official of the Vatican Secretariat of State, alternated with Pope Francis,
giving an English translation.
children as a blessing and respecting the dignity of each human being should be
the marks of Christian families, the pope said. "In obedience to God's
word, we are also called to resist practices which foster arrogance in men,
hurt or demean women and threaten the life of innocent children."
"We are called to respect and encourage one another,
and to reach out to all those in need," Pope Francis said.
The sacraments, he said, not only strengthen people's faith,
they are meant to change people's hearts, making them more faithful disciples
as seen in the care they show others.
As followers of Christ, the pope said, Christians are called
to be "missionary disciples, men and women who radiate the truth, beauty
and life-changing power of the Gospel. Men and women who are channels of God's
grace, who enable his mercy, kindness and truth to become the building blocks
of a house that stands firm," a home where people live in harmony as
brothers and sisters.
In the afternoon, Pope Francis met with the priests, religious
and seminarians of Kenya, a group that included dozens of missionaries,
"even from Argentina," said Missionary of Africa Father Felix J.
Phiri, chairperson of the Religious Superiors' Conference of Kenya.
The country, which has more than 13.8 million Catholics, is
served by more than 5,300 religious women, close to 800 religious brothers,
some 2,700 diocesan priests, just over 900 religious-order priests and four
Welcomed with cheers and the ululations of hundreds of
Kenyan sisters, Pope Francis set aside his prepared text and instead reflected
on the importance of priests and religious recognizing that the Lord called
them to serve and that serving is what their lives must be about.
Ambition, riches and prestige have no place in the life of a
priest or religious, Pope Francis said. Anyone who does not think he or she can
live a life of poverty, chastity and obedience should leave and start a family,
"When we were called, we were not canonized," the
pope said. Each priest and religious continues to be a person in need of God's
mercy and forgiveness, a person who must devote time to prayer. Without prayer,
he said, a person becomes as ugly as "a dried fig."
Pope Francis said he could imagine that some of the priests
and religious were thinking, "'What a rude pope. He told us what to do, he
told us off and did not even say thank you.' So the last thing I want to say to
you, the cherry on the cake, is to thank you for following Jesus, for every
time you realize you are a sinner, for every caress you give someone in need."- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.