The secret that the Pope shared with the thousands of young people who met in the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi sums up his entire message for Kenya. Indeed, Bergoglio said he had a rosary and a small Way of the Cross in his pocket, because these small objects remind him of the one true help on life’s journey, derived in constant prayer and contemplation of the Passion of Jesus — which was a failure in the eyes of men, but which ended with the Resurrection. This is why the Pontiff doesn’t lose hope, notwithstanding myriad difficulties.
The Pope held a lengthy dialogue with the young people, setting aside his prepared text to offer heartfelt responses to their concerns, improvising in Spanish just as he had done earlier in the meeting with 8,000 nuns, men and women religious and priests. Right after the meeting with youth he met with bishops in a conference room at the stadium. The two gatherings there were unencumbered by protocol and were preceded by his visit to Kangemi, one of the capital’s poor neighbourhoods. And thus, the Pope’s three days in Kenya, the initial destination of the Pontiff’s first journey to Africa, came to a close.
Why is there evil, fanaticism, tribalism and corruption? The young people’s questions intersected the Pope’s reflections, with his meditation, and with the message he launched, aimed not only at Kenya and Africa. The questions in fact are timeless and the difficulties are widespread. Even in the Vatican there are cases of corruption, the Pontiff stated. With a powerfully effective image he compared this danger, which runs rampant in politics, to the sugary sweetness that leads to serious illness, because the path of corruption leads to death.
The address that Pope Francis delivered in Kangemi directed a severe and circumstantial criticism of “an opulent society, anaesthetized by unbridled consumption”. Here too he referred to the wisdom one finds in poor neighbourhoods and to the possibility of a different culture based on “values which are not quoted in the stock exchange”. In perfect consistency with the social teaching of the Church, he denounced the “dreadful” injustice of urban marginalization, the lack of access to infrastructures and basic services (such as drinking water) and the new forms of colonialism which oppress Africa.
The fact that a different mentality is possible is also demonstrated by the works of men and women who, in consecration to the Lord, live a truly alternative lifestyle in order to follow the call of Jesus. The Pope remind all of them of the need to pray and to recognize their own sins, while thanking them for “burning” their lives “in hope”. In the stadium the Pontiff exhorted young people not to become discouraged by challenges but to overcome them like athletes who compete but do not “sell out”.
On the eve of the Paris conference on climate change, the Pope again expressed his his concern at the United Nations Office in Nairobi. It would indeed be catastrophic if particular interests were to prevail over the common good. Politics and the economy must instead be placed at the service of peoples and must be aimed at promoting lifestyles which respect creation, in order to pass on its beauty to future generations.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 19, 2019
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