POPE Francis’ visit to three African countries struggling through mass terrorism attacks and security scares brought hope to an often forgotten people, a Brisbane Kenyan said.
Peter Kamau of Brisbane’s Jubilee parish kept on top of the Pope’s visit to his birth country, Kenya, during the past week.
When he heard Pope Francis tell a journalist he was more afraid of mosquitoes than any possible terrorist attacks in Kenya, the father of three smiled.
“We have gone through hard times with terrorism and attacks,” he said.
“As you can imagine, all advice was saying to not be in Kenya, and here comes the highest man in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church not scared of being with us.
“It has rejuvenated hope in us, someone not even thinking about the dangers.”
On the flight from Rome to Africa, Pope Francis told one journalist he was not worried about security dangers in Kenya.
“There are bad people and there are good people. I am only worried about mosquitoes. Have you carried mosquito repellents?” he said.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta declared a national public holiday on the day Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Nairobi, which attracted millions despite heavy rain.
“When it rains in African it is a blessing, and in some ways, it is because of Pope Francis.”
Kenyan university professor Dr Richard Keoch of Armidale missed the Pope’s visit despite being in Kenya less than one month ago for his mother’s funeral.
“I would most probably have gone to the Mass in Kenya,” he said.
The former Toowoomba parishioner, now a parish council member at Saints Mary and Joseph Cathedral, Armidale, said recent media reports on Kenya made the country “look gloomy”.
The Pope’s visit was much-needed positive coverage for the African nation.
“Many times in developing countries Kenya is only in the media when something awful has happened,” he said.
“In the last week, Kenya has been in the world news positively.”
Dr Keoch said Kenyans felt “privileged” to be chosen as the Pope’s first African destination.
“We believe it’s a blessing for the Pope to have gone to Kenya.”
Pope’s visit restores hope in Uganda
The Pope’s five-day visit to Africa included short trips to Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic where he said Mass and spoke to local religious and lay leaders.
Brisbane Catholic Mission director David McGovern flew to Uganda for the Papal Mass on November 28 with Catholic charity partners Paul and Sue Fyfe of Uganda Kids.
Mr McGovern, who is also a volunteer community correspondent ABC 612 Community Radio, recorded a radio report while making his way into the Papal Mass venue from 6am.
Amidst excited screams and traditional African singing, Mr McGovern said there were “thousands and thousands of Ugandan flags” waving as the Pope rolled past.
Behind him, a nun wore a strap of bells on her ankle, shaking it as Pope Francis travelled past in the popemobile.
“It is just unlike anything I have ever experienced,” he reported for the ABC.
“There has been a real sense of building, a sense of anticipation and celebration right throughout the night despite the storm cloud which actually erupted and provided a fair bit of water over night.
“I think everyone is so excited about being a part of this wonderful occasion.”
Brisbane young woman Claire Forbes is volunteering as a missionary in Uganda and arrived to her new home a day before Pope Francis’ visit.
Miss Forbes, who has taken on the local name ‘Nantale’ while serving on NET Ministries in Uganda, almost missed a bus ride to the Papal Mass after the transport ran out of spare seats despite the team having pre-booked tickets.
With God’s grace the team arrived in Kololo in time for a 7.30am Mass concelebrated youth chaplains of each Ugandan diocese.
“It was absolutely beautiful,” Miss Forbes said.
“The whole event was exceptionally well organised; we received free soft drink and cake throughout the day.
“There would have been at least 5000 people there at that time- many more arrived throughout the day.”
The Papal Mass commemorated the lives of 22 young martyrs who died under an anti-Christian persecution under the reign of Mwanga II, king of Buganda.
“The atmosphere was one of joy and anticipation,” Miss Forbes said.
“They kept saying ‘The Pope is just about to arrive’ even when he was three hours away.
“Then when he arrived everyone was so excited, we were shouting ‘Pope Francis, we love you; Pope Francis, we welcome you’.
“But when he spoke, he reminded us who it’s really about – Jesus.
“He was preceded by two testimonies from young people who had experienced Jesus in great hardship, including the struggles of being a HIV/ AIDS orphan and being raised in a war-torn area.
“And his last words, ‘Pray for me’, those sitting by me were astonished.
“During two Masses I have been to since, the priest has mentioned this humility.
“It has had a profound impact on the people.”
By Emilie Ng