International News

Pope in Africa Continues Frank Talk

By Christopher Lamb,
Special to The Table

The Pope used his first full day in Africa to deliver some direct messages: the first to clergy and religious and the second to world leaders.

He admitted that he has a tendency to be a straight talker joking: “Sorry, I am the impolite Pope.”

Francis decided to go off script when he met a gathering of thousands of religious, priests and seminarian at St. Mary’s school in Nairobi.

He stressed the importance of prayer life, remembering ones sins and following the narrow gate of Jesus.

The worst thing a priest or religious can do, he said, is forgetting “Christ crucified” as this leads to an “indifference or lukewarmness” – this is something that “makes the Lord vomit.”

Africa is seeing a boom in vocations with many men entering seminaries and young men and women joining religious orders.

But Francis stressed “there is the temptation to follow the Lord out of ambition, ambition of money, ambition for power.”

He said: “I tell you this seriously, because in the Church we know it’s not a business, it’s not an NGO. The Church is a mystery, the mystery of Christ’s gaze upon each one of us, who says follow.”

His talk to priests and religious was followed by a visit to the United Nations in Nairobi where he delivered a powerful statement to world leaders before they gathered for a summit Paris to try and hammer out a legally binding agreement on climate change.

It would, he explained, be a “catastrophe” if those gathered in the French capital were not able confront the effects of climate change.

This is mainly because it impacts on some of the poorest parts of the world. In Africa the disputes over and plundering of natural resources are at the heart of some of the continent’s bloody conflicts. In the Central African Republic, which he is due to visit on Sunday, much of the fighting is over access to the country’s oil and minerals.

As Francis has explained in Laudato si’ , his encyclical on the environment, care for the planet goes hand in hand with building a fairer world that no longer excludes large groups of people.

And he told his audience at the United Nations: “Africa offers the world a beauty and natural richness which inspire praise of the Creator. This patrimony of Africa and of all mankind is constantly exposed to the risk of destruction caused by human selfishness of every type and by the abuse of situations of poverty and exclusion.”

Earlier in the day Francis met with religious and ecumenical leaders where he cited terrorist atrocities committed by Islamic extremists in Kenya. Dialogue with Islam and other religions, the Pope said, was no longer an optional extra but essential. Francis pointed out that 2015 marks the 50th anniversary since the closing of Vatican II which produced documents that set the blueprint for a new engagement of the Church with fellow christians and religions.

There was some discussion on twitter following the gathering over how many Muslims are in Kenya. Before speaking the Pope was addressed Professor Abdulghafur H.S. El-Busaidy, chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, who said that the number of Muslims in the Kenya stood at 30 per cent of the 40 million population. This figure, however, is disputed with the 2009 census putting the number at 11 per cent of the population The country is 80 per cent Christian.