Friday 23 August 2019

Pope Francis calls Africa 'continent of hope'

Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Entebbe international airport in Uganda (AP)
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Entebbe international airport in Uganda (AP)
Pope Francis is escorted to his airplane by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, centre-right, at Nairobi airport (AP)

Pope Francis has arrived in Uganda on the second leg of his Africa pilgrimage, honouring the country's most famous Christians and declaring Africa the "continent of hope".

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, flanked by a military brass band as well as traditional drummers and dancers, welcomed Francis as he landed at Entebbe International Airport.

The Pope, who arrived from Kenya and also is scheduled to visit Central African Republic, is in Uganda mainly to honour the memory of a group of Ugandan Christians who were killed in the 19th century on the orders of a local king eager to thwart the growing influence of Christianity.

Those victims, known as the Uganda Martyrs, include 45 Anglicans and Catholics killed between 1885 and 1887. Pope Paul VI canonised the 22 Ugandan Catholics in 1964.

"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," Francis told Mr Museveni and Ugandan diplomats at a welcome ceremony.

In an unusual break with papal trip protocol, Mr Museveni did not offer welcoming remarks.

Later on Friday, Francis visited a shrine honouring the martyrs in Munyonyo, where they were condemned to death.

He arrived in Uganda after a busy final day in Kenya that was highlighted by his visit to one of the capital's 11 slums and a spontaneous, off-the-cuff monologue to thousands of Kenyan youths about preventing young people from falling prey to corruption and radicalisation.

In the Kangemi shanty, Francis denounced the conditions slum-dwellers are forced to live in, saying access to safe water is a basic human right and that everyone should have dignified, adequate housing, access to sanitation, schools and hospitals.

He said: "To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need."

Francis, known as the "slum pope" for his ministry in Buenos Aires' shantytowns, has frequently insisted on the need for the three "Ls" - land, labour and lodging.

On Friday he focused on lodging as a critical issue facing the world amid rapid urbanisation that is helping to upset Earth's delicate ecological balance.

He denounced the practice of private corporations grabbing land illegally, depriving schools of their playgrounds and forcing the poor into ever more tightly packed slums, where violence and addiction are rampant.

In January, police tear-gassed schoolchildren demonstrating against the removal of their school's playground, which has been allegedly grabbed by powerful people.

After an outcry, the Kenyan government declared the playground the property of the school.

Francis said: "These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries."

He called for a "respectful urban integration" with concrete initiatives to provide good quality housing for all.

After the visit to Kangemi, Francis received a rock-star welcome at Kasarani stadium, where he zoomed around the track in his open-sided popemobile to the delight of thousands of young Kenyans in the crowd.

The stadium was so packed with the faithful that many more stood outside, unable to enter.

Francis ditched his prepared speech and spoke off-the-cuff at length about problems Kenyan young people are facing, including the temptation to go the way of Kenya's many corrupt officials and institutions or to go off and join an extremist group.

Francis told the crowd that the way to prevent the young from being radicalised is to give them an education and a job.

He said: "If a young person has no work, what kind of a future does he or she have? That's where the idea of being recruited comes from."

Francis is due to arrive in the Central African Republic on Sunday.

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News