Pope preaches against radicalisation of young people during East African visit
POPE FRANCIS is in Uganda, where he is due to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the canonisation of 22 Catholic martyrs on the second leg of his tour of three African countries.
The 78-year-old Argentinian pontiff yesterday walked onto a red carpet to be welcomed by President Yoweri Museveni and other dignitaries. Francis will pay homage to 22 Catholics and 23 Anglicans who were murdered on the orders of a local king trying to thwart the spread of Christianity in the late 19th century. The Catholics were canonised in 1964.
Roads were sealed off leading to Namugongo, which houses a shrine to the martyrs and where hundreds of thou- sands of people are expected to turn up for a mass celebrated by Francis today.
Museveni and other politicians interrupted their campaigning for the February elections while Uganda’s three main newspapers ran special editions on the papal visit.
Francis arrived in Uganda from Kenya, where he visited the slum of Kangemi on the outskirts of Nairobi yesterday morning, blaming “the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion” on those “who cling to power and wealth”.
An unjust international system that worships “the God of money” is behind the radicalisation of young people around the world, he later said at a meeting with young people.
Lack of education and joblessness leads young people to be seduced and recruited as radicals, the pope said, questioning why youths “who are full of ideals” allow themselves to be radicalised.
“They leave their friends, their tribe and their country,” he said. “They leave their lives behind in order to learn how to kill. This is a question which you yourselves must pose to all people in authority.”
The pontiff also spoke out against corruption, saying it was present “in all areas of life, including the Vatican”.
Scrapping a prepared script, the pope addressed a packed Nairobi Stadium with the down-to-earth and spontaneous style that has endeared him to Catholics and others around the world.
“The spirit of evil takes us to a lack of unity. It takes to tribalism, corruption and drugs. It takes us to destruction out of fanaticism,” the pope said, urging young people not to give in to these vices.
“Let’s hold hands together, let’s stand up as a sign against bad tribalism,” he said.
Tribal loyalties often trump political allegiances in Kenya, sometimes sparking violence.
Corruption “is like sugar, sweet, we like, it’s easy,” Francis said. “Please, don’t develop that taste for that sugar which is called corruption.”
In Kenya, the target of a spate of deadly attacks by Islamist militants, the pope called for inter-faith dialogue, saying God’s name could never be invoked to justify violence, and urged world leaders to tackle climate change.
Addressing the lure of radical groups he said that God was “much stronger than any recruitment campaign” , adding youths should help potential victims by bringing them into groups or even asking them “to come and watch some football ... Don’t allow them to remain on their own”.
Francis arrived in Kenya on Wednesday and celebrated mass on Thursday in front of hundreds of thousands of the faithful.
He also met representatives of other religions, stressing that the name of God “must never be used to justify hatred and violence” in acts such as terrorist attacks.
Despite the Catholic Church’s traditional disapproval of homosexuality, Ugandan gays have been hoping the pope would defend their rights in the country whose tough anti- gay laws have sparked international criticism.
The pope was expected to raise human rights issues, and “we expect him to talk about sexual minority rights in terms of harassment,” gay activist Moses Kimbugwe said.
The visit to Uganda will be followed tomorrow by one to the Central African Republic, the last leg of Francis’s six-day African tour. – Reuters and ANA-dpa
SUCCESSION: A woman holds a picture displaying all the popes to have visited Uganda while waiting for Pope Francis to arrive in the capital Kampala, yesterday.