Kenyan slum children offer gifts to welcome pope

They came through the narrow and muddy streets in the rain long before dawn, intent on seeing Pope Francis as he came to their church in the Kenyan slum of Kangemi.

The first people arrived more than two hours before dawn, with the church of St Joseph the Worker already packed before sunlight crept over the crowded tin roofs of the shanty town, home to more than 100,000 people on the outskirts of the capital Nairobi.

Fourteen-year old Kelvin Mutwiri, who lives among the rubbish, came with a drawing of the pope in white and gold as a gift for the 78-year-old pontiff.

“Pope Francis I don’t want to be a street boy, pray for me,” read a set of prayers, beautifully drawn and framed by a group of a dozen children, who were rescued and supported by the church. “Pope Francis, pray for me, I am sick,” read another.

People sang, some danced inside the crowded church, with the doors at the back left open to allow those who couldn’t fit inside to at least catch a glimpse of the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Although the street directly leading to the church was clear apart from school children, thousands thronged the surrounding streets.

“They prepared for this mass, they wrote messages and prayers,” said Catholic priest Father Vittorio, who runs a programme supporting the street children.

Mutwiri’s gift, he explained, was made during a project in which painting is used as a tool to help rehabilitate the youngsters.

“We try to offer them some help — we have a school of painting so they can start to connect with themselves,” Vittorio said.

“We start directing them for rehabilitation. They’re being reintegrated. They feel the dignity of being a person again. Before they were rejected, now they participate in the life of others again.”

– ‘God hasn’t forgotten you’ –

Former street boy James, now 36, grew up on the streets of the tough Mathere slum in another area of Nairobi, and was also helped by Vittorio.

“I came to see the Holy Father, to take his blessing, I hope maybe to see him and talk to him,” said James.

“The Father (Vittorio) knew me for a long time. He told me: ‘Don’t go to the street’. It changed my life,” he told AFP, saying the priest had introduced him to the Bible.

“He gave me the words of God.”

As the Argentine pope began to speak in Spanish, a hush fell across the church.

“I am here because I want you to know that I am not indifferent to your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows,” he told them.

“I want you to know that the Lord never forgets you. The path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others.”

For many, simply being there was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It’s a great honour to be here, I’ve been a Catholic all my life. I’ve been baptised in this church and I’ve made my first communion and confirmation here. I’m very excited,” said Margaret Mwaniki, a resident of the slum who came with her husband and three sons.

“It’s good for us. His current message of peace and empowerment of young people is the message that we need.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Vast crowds expected for pope’s first mass in Africa – Kenya

Kenyan Catholic leaders are expecting over a million people to attend an open-air mass led by Pope Francis in the capital Nairobi Thursday, the first full day of his Africa tour.

Thousands of police and troops have been deployed and roads closed to ensure security as the pontiff makes his first visit to Kenya on a six-day trip which will also take him to Uganda and Central African Republic (CAR).

Both Kenya and Uganda have suffered major attacks by Al-Qaeda’s East Africa branch, the Shebab, because they have troops deployed in Somalia.

The public mass, which begins at 0700 GMT, will be celebrated in the grounds of Nairobi University and broadcast live in two other parks in the city in a highly anticipated part of the pope’s programme. Francis will also visit a slum on Friday morning.

Speaking alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta after talks at Nairobi’s State House on Wednesday evening, Francis urged leaders to work with “transparency” and to battle inequality.

“I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of society,” he said, in comments alluding to the corruption and inequality that blights Kenya.

“I ask you in particular to show genuine concern for the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young, and a just distribution of the natural and human resources with which the Creator has blessed your country,” Francis said.

The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics also warned the world was facing a “grave environmental crisis” just days before the start of COP21, a key United Nations climate conference in Paris.

“There is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order,” he said.

Francis is expected to speak further on the environment on Thursday when he visits the Nairobi headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

Ahead of the visit, UNEP chief Achim Steiner told AFP the pope had a “profound role to play” in efforts to tackle climate change.

“Whether you are a Catholic or not, it is the ethical, the moral dimension of acting on something that we know is a threat to future generations,” Steiner said.

He is following in the footsteps of Paul VI, who became the first pope of modern times to set foot in Africa when he visited Uganda in 1969.

He was followed by John Paul II, who managed to visit a total of 42 countries on the continent during his long papacy and was dubbed “The African” by a Senegalese cardinal.

Photo Credits : AFP

TV series “Scandal” cast do a photoshoot ahead of premiere (photos)

The fourth season of Scandal returns on Thursday and it looks like the political drama will be taking into account the current racial tension in United States.

The first episode, shows Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) called in to ‘fix’ a small problem for the police force after one of their white officers guns down a black teen.

This is a little similar to the Trayvon Martin story.

olivia pope
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope
Guillermo Diaz returns as Huck
Jake Ballard (Scott Foley)
Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant
Bellamy Young returns as First Lady Mellie Grant
Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan
Katie Lowes as Quinn Perkins


Pope names 20 cardinals, many from developing world

Pope Francis named 20 new cardinals, a majority of them from Africa, Asia and Latin America, increasingly key areas as the Roman Catholic Church’s support shifts from its traditional European stronghold.

Fifteen of the new cardinals — considered “princes of the church” — are under the age of 80, meaning they are eligible to join the conclave which will elect the pope’s successor.

In announcing the new voting cardinals on Sunday, Pope Francis said they come “from 14 countries from every continent (and) manifest the indissoluble links between the Church of Rome” and churches around the world.

The list of newly named cardinals includes three from Africa, five from Latin America as well as a combined total of five from Asia and the Pacific.

Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga becomes the first cardinal from the Polynesian archipelago. At 53, he will also be the youngest.

John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, who also made the list, described Mafi’s appointment as “great news” for the region.

“Although we are geographically far from much of the world, Pope Francis has gone to the periphery of the world to name new cardinals,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile Archbishop Daniel Sturla, only the second Uruguayan to be appointed a cardinal, said he was “shocked” by honour, which comes less than a year after he was appointed archbishop of Montevideo.

The pope’s choice of a Haitian cardinal in February was also a first for the church.

Despite the variety of nations represented in the pope’s new choices, Europeans still accounted for the single largest group with seven, including three Italians.

– No Americans or Canadians –

Francis, who has undertaken a reform of the Vatican’s administrative body known as the Curia, named only one cardinal from within it: Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, a Frenchman. He used to serve as the Vatican’s foreign minister.

No American or Canadian cardinals were named on Sunday, which Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said was because “their numbers are already consistent and remained stable.”

Once these new members of the College of Cardinals are officially installed on February 14, there will be 228 members, including 125 who can vote in conclaves.

The new cardinals reflect a change in church demographics, which have shifted toward Africa, Latin America and Asia in the past century.

In 1910 about 65 percent of the world’s Catholics lived in Europe with 24 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a 2010 study from American think tank Pew Research Center.

By 2010 Latin America accounted for 39 percent of the church’s followers while 16 percent were in Africa and 24 percent were in Europe.

Despite the new nominations, the overwhelming number of cardinals named during this and the previous two papacies have been Europeans. Over the three papacies, 57 are from Europe, 19 from Latin America and 15 from Africa, 14 from Asia and three from the Pacific.

These are the 20 new cardinals, grouped by region:


Archbishop Dominique Mamberti of France

Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Italy

Archbishop Luigi De Magistris of Italy (Non-voting)

Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Spain

Archbishop Karl-Joseph Rauber of Germany (Non-voting)

Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of Italy

Archbishop Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente of Portugal


Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado of Cape Verde

Bishop emeritus Julio Duarte Langa of Mozambique (Non-voting)

Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Ethiopia


Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar

Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of New Zealand

Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Thailand

Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga

Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi

Latin America:

Archbishop Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet of Uruguay

Archbishop Alberto Suarez Inda of Mexico

Bishop Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan of Panama

Archbishop Jose de Jesus Pimiento Rodriguez of Colombia (Non-voting)

Archbishop emeritus Luis Hector Villaba of Argentina (Non-voting)

Pope calls for greater empathy in Christmas Eve mass

Pope Francis urged people to have greater empathy towards family and friends with problems in his Christmas Eve mass on Wednesday, saying the world “needs tenderness” and warmth.

“Do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us?” the Argentine asked in his traditional homily given in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

“Or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today!” he said.

The short address laden with Gospel references was a far cry from his barbed Christmas speech to cardinals, bishops and priests on Monday.

In an unprecedented outburst, the 78-year old lambasted the Vatican’s bureaucracy, listing 15 “ailments” within the Church, including lust for power and “spiritual Alzheimer’s”, which he hoped to see cured in the new year.

Among the ills was lack of empathy, with the pope warning against “the sickness of indifference towards others, when each person thinks only of themselves and loses the sincerity and warmth of human relationships.”

In the Christmas Eve address, the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics called on “the arrogant, the proud… (and) those closed off to others” to meet life “with goodness, with meekness.”

“The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness,” he said.

The mass was broadcast live in 3D for the first time, with images of the crowds of faithful massing in and around the tiny city state captured by drones.

The festivities continue Thursday, Christmas Day, with the pope delivering his traditional “urbi et orbi” message “to the city and the world” at 1100 GMT.Vait

Pope Francis’ adviser hints at rethink on contraception ban

A leading reformist Cardinal close to Pope Francis has hinted at the possibility of a reinterpretation of the Roman Catholic Church’s blanket ban on artificial contraception.

Cardinal Walter Kasper said it was “the responsibility of the parents” to decide how many children they should have.

He also said that so-called natural family planning, which is promoted by the Church as an alternative to contraception, also has an “artificial” element.

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