BY ISAAC WANJEKECHE
The supreme Catholic Church leader finally came and left the country with mixed reactions and feelings across the board after long expectations for his maiden trip in the black soil of Africa and Kenya.
Many Catholics are still nursing hangover of the Pope Franci’s tour after a momentous tour that attracted media both locally and internationally.
The president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta who also doubles as a faithful of one of the leading congregation in the world kept close contact with the pope’s itinerary.
The big question is whether the pope’s tour has left an impact in the way of life of Kenyans and leadership or it is yet another pass over trip like the US President’s whose message was forgotten even before departing from the Kenyan skies.
The clergy and the faithfuls are perceived to have been given a new spiritual revamp from pope’s tour as he challenged and reminded the priests to observe servant- hood quality in their calling.
The pope while addressing thousands of church leaders at St. Marys schools asked the clergy to donate most of their time in shepherd hood mission rather than material things.
He said the call the priests are serving is characterized with simplicity, poverty, self denial, service to the poor and down trodden.
The pope’s trip however did not leave the mighty and wealthy untouched. His message pierced through their hearts like a double edged sword as he cautioned them of perpetrating corruption. What remains to be seen is whether it will trigger action.
And at a time when Gatundu MP Moses Kuria is facing a trial over hate speech, the pope was clear in his message asking leaders to preach peace and reconciliation and shun tribalism and radicalization.
The MP who was once an altar boy in the Catholic Church among many others could be a real example in pope’s heart-to-heart message that has left many pondering and tongues wagging.
His message at Kasarani stadium with the youth on corruption was significant as he spoke before president Uhuru who is facing the most challenging situation in addressing graft in his administration.
He described graft as a “path to death” as he spoke to thousands of young people in Kenya, the East African country beset by corruption scandals.
On his inaugural trip to Africa, the head of the Roman Catholic Church compared corruption with cancer that he said is deadly.
Kenya is considered one of the region’s more corrupt states, ranking 145th out of 174 nations in Transparency International’s corruption perception index.
“Young people: corruption is not a path to life; it’s a path to death.” He told the youth.
He also raised “the serious problem posed by faceless private developers who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your children’s schools”.
“These realities which I have just mentioned are not a random combination of unrelated problems,” he added. “They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism.”
The Pope’s playground reference concerned an incident in January when police tear-gassed children at a Nairobi primary school who were protesting against the sale of their playground to developers.The private developer is however known by every Tom Dick and Harry.
Popes trip to Kangemi arose sympathy and emotions in equal measure as narration of life in the slums was aired by a poor faithful at St, Joseph The worker.
He brought out a picture of a major discrepancy in life between the poor and the rich, the suffering and struggle.
Kenya consists of a 55% population of the people living in the slums occupying a mere 5% area of the city. The remaining major percent is occupied by the few affluent.
What pundits will be asking is if the message conveyed by the pope will be adhered to by both the faithfuls and the leadership or it’s just yet another passing cloud well known with our Kenyan culture after a warm and colorful trip that compelled the state to declare it a holiday.
President Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto who were close to the pope and in the forefront of the trip must walk the talk and adhere to the vocal message from Pope.
The first in line is the president whose family is sitting on idle millions of acres as tens of millions of Kenyans live landless and in shanty structures.
Mama Ngina Kenyatta who vividly attended the papal mass too at University of Nairobi should loosen her heart and re-think of the poor people in Kenya and relinquish the grabbed land they are sitting on to up lift humanity.
That is what the ‘poor pope’ who rode on a simple Honda car could be preaching to us Kenyans.
Those actions will for instance make fruitful the trip of the head of the church whose interest for the poor reigns close to his heart.
For him- he is not keen with the warm welcome accorded to him by the state, but the practical changes they are supposed to make to alleviate humanity: not either keen with the 21 gun salute he received at state House or the warm dance at Kasarani by leaders in government.
The leadership must also endeavor to address land grabbing issue that seemed a thorn in Popes flesh.
The continent at large must also be sensitive to the issue of global warming and walk the talk.
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni who has hosted the pope must shun dictatorship and greed for power and pave way for new crop of leadership in the ‘Banana republic.
That move will be a serious signal of embracing the religious leader- not by words but by deeds.
As Pope wraps up his tour in the continent wrapping up a historic tour many will be talking about for a long time to come.
Catholics and non-Catholics alike who were swept by in the so-called pope syndrome, as the media labeled it,will also be keeping an eye on what kind of impact the pope’s moves and messages will have on politicians, policy makers and opinion leaders in the region.
Of course the pope came on a religious mission with no political motives, as emphasized by Vatican but his message cuts across all spheres of life.
What remains vivid in the historic tour is how the pope reached out to the weak, the poor, those in mourning, the physically challenged, the elderly and the young, among other socially vulnerable groups – and asking whether that isn’t also what the political, social and religious elites should be doing amid acute and prolonged divisions within the country and mistrust and resentment among regional neighbors.
John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them’’.
Isaac Wanjekeche is an independent Journalist and a member of Centre for Public Integrity (firstname.lastname@example.org)