The evening of Wednesday 25th November 2015, remains indelible in the Kenyan, and indeed, the African history. It marked the end of speculation about Africa and Kenya’s capacity and capability to host (probably) the only person with the biggest fellowship in the entire world, His Holiness Pope Francis I. Most people, laity, laymen, and otherwise were eager to hear what this icon of sheer humility had to share from beneath the canvas of the jaded African sunsets and rises. This article digresses from and focuses on that which he did not utter yet it was too deafening to overlook.
1. TimeKeeping=Respect, Position Notwithstanding:
One of the most outstanding and admirable traits that Pope Francis portrayed was promptness. Pope Francis arrived approximately 35 minutes prior to his scheduled time. Considering the his descent from Air Italia, it was clear that Papa Francesco had not arrived early so that he could dillydally in the VIP lounge. He was on time for the UoN Mass, the Kasarani meeting, and, I am reliably informed, this replayed at the UN Office at Nairobi.
2. Status and State Do Not Necessarily Mean Stately:
After the fiat phenomenon, everyone was eager to see His Holiness’ ride. In came the Honda Ballade. I am surprised Honda hasn’t pulled out an advert already!
You may not know, but Nairobi City Council askaris would easily tow away the Ballade. By the way, I am told, His Holiness preferred supper at the Apostolic Nunciature to a stately dinner thrown in his honour at The State House. This polite decline might as well have prevented the usual, massive wastage of food that encumbers such dinners. How much can a man eat, anyway, to warrant the state feeding him! As opposed to sleeping in fancy hotels, he spent his nights as a humble guest at the Nunciature. Picture this, POTUS spent his night at the most expensive hotel in town yet at his disposal was the ambassadorial home in one of Kenya’s dream-come-true leafy suburbs. But then again, Papa Francesco is no politician…?
3. Do Not Exaggerate Security, I Am Anything but Immortal:
When Barack Obama landed in the country, I doubt there were any instances where the Beast’s window panes were rolled down whilst he cruised the streets of Nairobi. Pope Francis waved at the people all along Mombasa Road with little consideration for the possibility of a blood-hungry, #HotBedofTerror sniper in the crowd. He mingled with the people of Kangemi in the not-so-huge church and no one was forcefully kept outside. In fact, he seemed to enjoy every moment. At one point, he even beckoned at a lady from a crowd of bystanders to shake hands, which left the lady exceedingly elated. At Kasarani, he woke up to shake the hands of the two young people that delivered speeches.
4. Forest from High Suburbs to Lowly Areas:
The planting of the trees at State House and at the UNEP grounds is for most people considered norm for high-level guests. I wonder what would happen if the local parish priest, the president and other influential people were to inspire similar action whenever they campaigned? In line with foresting, the Pope blessed tree seedlings that were to be distributed to all dioceses across the country. It makes one wonder why it would take Pope Francis’ visit to occasion such noble actions when he had already written so much in Laudato Si months before the visit.
5. Anyone Can Bless; Anyone Can Inform:
While it is expected that the Holy Father would go all around blessing, it happened. But then again, he also bent, lowered his head and accepted blessings from an elderly nun while at Kangemi. I am sure some rigid conservatives would consider this taboo or even sin! At Kasarani, the Holy Father did not put together a speech for the young people. Instead, his utterances were informed by the speeches of the two young people, which made the meeting all the more interactive; conversational. Regardless of who were behind the speeches, Pope Francis knew he was addressing young people as their addressee as well!
David N. Munene,
Programs Manager, CYNESA Kenya.