Archbishop Charles Balvo
Archbishop Charles Balvo

This will be the fourth papal visit to the country. Local authorities are planning for at least a million people to join the Holy Father at the University of Nairobi grounds for a mass.

Archbishop Charles Balvo
Archbishop Charles Balvo

The Catholic Church, which is organising the pastoral side of the visit, expects at least 1.5 million faithful to be in the city when the Pope arrives.

QUESTION: Of what significance is the Pope’s visit to the Catholic nation?

ANSWER: This is the Pope’s first trip to Africa and it will start in Nairobi and then proceed to Kampala and Bangui. This will be his first opportunity to come face to face with the Church in Africa and it is an important event. There have been a lot of meetings between us and Rome but we are happy it is happening. Pope Francis will have a message for the different parts of the world, but most importantly he will have something to say to Africans. In other parts of the world, the Church is on the decline, but faith remains an important part of daily life in Africa. He wants to see that first-hand and then give his vision for Africa and the Church.

A lot has been going wrong in the Church. What would you say is going right with the Church at this time of his visit?

I think what is going right for the Church now is tolerance. Unfortunately, religion has been used the world over and historically as an instrument of division. But one of the things that the Church is currently doing is preach inter-religious tolerance. To this end, the Pope will meet people from across the religious spheres to engage them in their different approaches to the various challenges facing humanity. Different religions have different approaches to problems facing us all but ultimately all of us are working towards the same thing. We all work towards the improvement of the human race as well as tolerance. This will be an important session to show that we need to be tolerant with each other: Despite our different visions of who God is, our differences should not be tools for division.

How has the planning been like from a logistical point of view?

Ever since the meeting was confirmed, we have had a series of meetings, but thankfully everything is being handled.

The Kenyan Catholic Church has always been vocal on governance issues. The Pope’s visit comes at a time when the country is facing a crisis in confidence. Will he speak on this?

Yes, he might speak about some of these things, but only in a general sense. He will not speak on specific issues that have come up, like the teachers’ strike for example. The Pope, traditionally, does not want to get too involved with issues that are country-specific. He might generally talk about the need for governments to exist at the service of the people but he will not get into specifics.

By Daniel Wesangula, The Standard

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