Four years ago, on March 13, Jorge Mario Bergoglio inherited the throne of St. Peter and made a request of the world, “Pray for me.”
Yesterday, Kenyans joined the rest of the world in marking the day that a superstar Pope took over as the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
In a yellow and white affair— the colours of the Vatican flag— whose chief guest was First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, it was on the lawn of the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio in Nairobi that Catholics, members of the Diplomatic Corps, UN bodies, ambassadors and High Commissioners gathered to mark the day.
Hosted by Archbishop Charles D. Balvo, the Pope’s representative in Kenya, the celebrations were also attended by the Archbishop of Nairobi John Cardinal Njue, the President of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, Philip Anyolo and former Vice President Moody Awori.
Speakers quoted the charismatic cardinal from Buenos Aires who rose to become a pontiff of many firsts and who has morphed into a selfie-taking, shoe-shopping, down-to earth pope of the social media age.
He is the first to take on the name Francis after St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the poor, and the only Pope to have a living predecessor in recent history — Benedict the 16th who resigned on February 23, 2013 due to poor health.
Pope Francis made Kenya his first stop during his historic visit to Africa in 2015.
Archbishop Balvo urged Kenyans to embrace dialogue especially during the electioneering period.
“The Pope as the Bishop of Rome’s is Pontiff or Pontifex in Latin, whose role it is to build bridges so that everyone sees another as a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced.”
Mr Clement Wambugu, the Mathioya MP and the chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast Group, said Pope Francis’ maiden visit to Africa had brought a message of harmony that touched hearts.
He said the Pope urged Christians to be people of faith and action. “Let us not just speak of God but do little to help. To be a Christian means to do the work of God,” he said.
The Apostolic Nunciature is also the Embassy of the Vatican in Kenya and South Sudan, and it is where the frugal and humble pope stayed while he was in the country.
Monsignor Marco Ganci, Counselor of the Apostolic Nunciature explained that the anniversary of the election of the Pope also serves as Vatican’s National Day.
“We celebrate this day and use this opportunity to build bridges and reach out. Every year we always celebrate this feast and as every country has a national day, ours’ is the pope’s Election Day.”
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta’s said: “Mine is not a speech but I’m here to say it is with great humility that I’m here to witness the 4th anniversary of the election of his Holiness the Pope and it is a significant and joyful occasion.
“I join you all and the wider Catholic congregation in celebrating this event and convey my highest regards best wishes and God’s blessings to Pope Francis. Thank you.”