Pope Francis has departed Italy as he begins his first ever tour of Africa. He arrives the continent, prepared to spread his message of peace among Africans amidst security fears.
Pontiff brings message of peace to Africa
He arrives amidst security fears
The pope will be visiting Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic. According to AP reports, the Pope might make a few changes to his travel plans.
On the eve of the departure, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, insisted that there were no new worrisome threats and that the pope planned to carry on with his program, as scheduled. But in a sign that the Vatican was on alert, Francis' own chief bodyguard made a last-minute visit to Bangui this week to get the latest on-the-ground security updates, and will only meet up with the pope once he lands in Nairobi on Wednesday afternoon.
The bodyguard, Domenico Giani, said upon his departure that "some small modifications" could be made to the itinerary if risks emerged, especially for the civilian population or the U.N. peacekeeping operation.
Reports also reveal that during his visit, Pope Francis will most likely bring up the issue of African political leaders and corruption.
While in Kenya, Francis will also deliver an important environmental message at the U.N. Environment Program headquarters on the eve of make-or-break climate talks in Paris. He'll also visit a Nairobi slum and seek to encourage young Kenyan Christians following the rampage by Islamic extremists who killed nearly 150 people at a college of mostly Christian students in April.
In Uganda, Francis will pray at the shrine to the country's famous martyrs and celebrate a Mass in their honor.
Rev. Robert Dowd, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame believes that Francis' visit will serve to promote peace in the continent.
"It has a crucial role to play in promoting justice and peace in societies where governments are not always accountable or responsive."
On his plans for Africa, Pope Francis said, in a video message, "My aim is to bring you comfort, consolation and hope in the name of Jesus."
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