Nairobi, 3th December 2015
Last week pope Francis came to Africa, first here to Kenya and afterwards to Uganda and the Central African Republic. It was a wonderful experience.
On the 26th of November, in the morning, we attended the Eucharist celebrated by the pope with more than a million people: we have never seen so many people on the streets of Nairobi. At the same time, we had never experienced so much rain and mud…
Afterwards on foot and by matatu, we headed to Msongari where the pope had a meeting with religious women and men and the clergy. There were at least 8,000 people underneath the big tent erected for the occasion.
In the meantime, forty of our friends from Mathare were preparing for the following day, because the pope’s program for the morning of the 27th included a visit to the slum of Kangemi, and the residents of all the slums of Nairobi were invited to that extraordinary event.
As it is dangerous in Mathare to leave home in the night, the parish priest of St Theresa’s had invited the people, ready to go to Kangemi for the following day, to spend the night in the church compound.
This was also a great opportunity, for those who wanted to, to receive the sacrament of reconciliation in order to prepare themselves for the great event of the following day.
At three a.m. the parish priest celebrated the Eucharist and afterwards he offered breakfast to everyone there present.
At four thirty we left by bus.
When we arrived in Kangemi, we were warmly welcomed.
Agnes, who is blind because of what she suffered during the infamous post elections violence in 2008, and Mark, a ten years old boy affected with cerebral palsy, together with his mother, were invited to sit where other disabled people were seated, so that they could greet and be greeted by the pope when he entered the church.
What we said to the pope, what he told us, and everything indeed, is kept in our hearts.
The pope’s addresses are available on the Vatican Radio site: they are really worthy to be read and meditated on.
Mary: “I received the sacrament of reconciliation, as a way of removing any hindrances to the meeting with the pope.
I experienced an incredible joy, I danced and sang with all my strength, and even now I feel as if I am still experiencing that moment.”
Joseph: “When the sisters asked me if I liked to go and see the pope in Kangemi, I thought “Are they asking me?” Something like this seems like one of those impossible dreams that one has as a child, when one imagines that one can fly. To ask me if I wanted to see the pope… it is a dream that became true”.
Evelyne: “We are always at the bottom; wherever we go we are immediately recognised and avoided, instead we were placed in the front row. It was like what we can read in the Virgin Mary song (the Magnificat). The Lord raised up the lowly.”
Tere: “While the video clip about the life in the slums was being shown to the pope, someone behind me started to cry, and I thought “why are they crying?” These things we live in the slums, but we are not crying. Maybe this means that life has made us strong, we are used to them and we go on overcoming any obstacle.”
Shosho Catherine: “When I saw John, a former street child, get up and go and give his witness on behalf of the people of Mathare I thought “couldn’t they have chosen someone better?” But his was a witness of incredible power.”
Mama Mark: “The pope embraced Mark and looked at me with a big smile”.
To these remarks we would like to add some words which Monsignor Dieudonne Nzapalainga, archbishop of Bangui, said at the end of the pope’s visit to the Central African Republic.
The visit had been objected to because of fears about the pope’s security.
“Everyone expected the end of the world: but nothing happened.
Instead, there was joy. A people abandoned, forgotten, murdered, needs to receive a message of hope.
I found in pope Francis a humble pope who loves the poor, is close to them and in solidarity with the situation.”
Now we have to take seriously the invitation that the pope gave us: “stand strong in faith, do not be afraid, as you belong to the Lord.””
Greetings from all of us sisters, and from the friends of Mathare.