Pope in Kenya: never violence in God's name, call to mission and to create a just society
Nairobi (AsiaNews) - God, whose "must never be used to justify hatred and violence", calls every believer to be a missionary, to bring the "life changing" Gospel everywhere, so that it renders people capable of also building a society of civil concord and solidarity and in which Christians are called to "resist practices that promote arrogance in men, injure or despise women and threaten the lives of the unborn innocent ".
Francis’ second day of in Kenya began with a meeting with the leaders of different Christian denominations and of other religious traditions in the country and the first Mass celebrated in Africa (pictured) near the University of Nairobi.
In an open-topped car, under a heavy rain, he took a tour among hundreds of thousands of faithful gathered in Central Park, under the careful eye of a police helicopter, while tens of thousands more followed the ceremony on giant screens installed near Uhuru Park, where 30 years ago John Paul II, the first pope to visit Kenya, also celebrated Mass.
In a ritual for the Evangelization of Peoples, rich, according to the African tradition with dances and songs, Francis stressed not only the mission entrusted to each of the faithful, but also the importance of the family, in central African culture, and young people, the future of every country. He had also spoken of young people in the meeting with the religious leaders earlier in the day when, speaking of religious extremism he said that " All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies. How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect".
In Italian, during mass he said “God’s word speaks to us in the depths of our heart. Today God tells us that we belong to him. He made us, we are his family, and he will always be there for us. “Fear not”, he says to us, “I have chosen you and I promise to give you my blessing” ' (cf. Is 44.2 to 3). We hear this promise in today’s first reading. The Lord tells us that in the desert he will pour forth water on the thirsty land; he will cause the children of his people to flourish like grass and luxuriant willows. "
The importance of the family in God's plan
"Isaiah’s prophecy invites us to look to our own families, and to realize how important they are in God’s plan. Kenyan society has long been blessed with strong family life, a deep respect for the wisdom of the elderly and love for children. The health of any society depends on the health of its families. For their sake, and for the good of society, our faith in God’s word calls us to support families in their mission in society, to accept children as a blessing for our world, and to defend the dignity of each man and woman, for all of us are brothers and sisters in the one human family.
In obedience to God’s word, we are also called to resist practices which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women, and threaten the life of the innocent unborn. We are called to respect and encourage one another, and to reach out to all those in need. Christian families have this special mission: to radiate God’s love, and to spread the life-giving waters of his Spirit. This is especially important today, for we are seeing the growth of new deserts created by a culture of materialism and indifference to others.
The Lord makes us another promise in today’s readings. As the Good Shepherd who guides us on the paths of life, he promises to make us dwell in his own house for days unending (cf. Ps 23:6). Here too, we see his promise fulfilled in the life of the Church. In Baptism, he leads us beside restful waters and revives our soul; in Confirmation he anoints us with the oil of spiritual joy and strength; and in the Eucharist, he prepares a table for us, the table of his own body and blood, for the salvation of the world.
We need these gifts of grace! Our world needs these gifts! Kenya needs these gifts! They strengthen us in fidelity amid adversity, when we seem to be walking “in the valley of the shadow of death”. But they also change our hearts. They make us more faithful disciples of the divine Master, vessels of mercy and loving kindness in a world wounded by selfishness, sin and division. These are the gifts which God, in his providence, enables you, as men and women of faith, to contribute to the building up of your country in civil concord and fraternal solidarity. In a particular way, they are gifts which must be shared with the young, who here, as elsewhere on this great continent, are the future of society".
Young people build a more just society
"Here, in the heart of this University, where the minds and hearts of new generations are being shaped, I appeal in a special way to the young people of the nation. Let the great values of Africa’s traditions, the wisdom and truth of God’s word, and the generous idealism of your youth guide you in working to shape a society which is ever more just, inclusive and respectful of human dignity. May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor, and reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things, we know, are not of God. All of us are familiar with Jesus’ parable about the man who built his house on sand, rather than rock. When the winds came, it fell with a mighty crash (cf. Mt 7:24-27). God is the rock on
which we are called to build. He tells us this in the first reading, and he asks us: “Is there a God besides me?” (cf. Is 44:8).
When the Risen Jesus says, in today’s Gospel, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18), he is telling us that he, the Son of God, is himself the rock. There is none besides him. As the one Saviour of mankind, he wishes to draw men and women of every time and place to himself, so that he can bring them to the Father. He wants all of us to build our lives on the firm foundation of his word. And that is the charge which the Lord gives to each of us. He asks us to be missionary disciples, men and women who radiate the truth, beauty and life-changing power of the Gospel. Men and women who are channels of God’s grace, who enable his mercy, kindness and truth to become the building blocks of a house that stands firm. A house which is a home, where brothers and sisters at last live in harmony and mutual respect, in obedience to the will of the true God, who has shown us, in Jesus, the way to that freedom and peace for which all hearts long". May Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the rock on whom we build our lives, guide you and your families in the way of goodness and mercy all the days of your lives. May he bless all Kenyans with his peace. “Stand strong in faith! Do not be afraid!” For you belong to the Lord. Mungu awabariki! (God bless you!) Mungu abariki Kenya (God bless Kenya!)”.
Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue "is essential"
Francis spoke of the role and tasks of religions in the construction of an open and reconciled society in a meeting with the religious leaders to whom he had said that "ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something additional or optional, it is essential, it is something of which our world wounded by conflicts and divisions, is increasingly in need".
" religious beliefs and practice condition who we are and how we understand the world around us. They are for us a source of enlightenment, wisdom and solidarity, and thus enrich the societies in which we live. By caring for the spiritual growth of our communities, by forming minds and hearts in the truths and values taught by our religious traditions, we become a blessing to the communities in which our people live. In democratic and pluralistic societies like Kenya, cooperation between religious leaders and communities becomes an important service to the common good.
In this light, and in an increasingly interdependent world, we see ever more clearly the need for interreligious understanding, friendship and collaboration in defending the God-given dignity of individuals and peoples, and their right to live in freedom and happiness. By upholding respect for that dignity and those rights, the religions play an essential role in forming consciences, instilling in the young the profound spiritual values of our respective traditions, and training good citizens, capable of infusing civil society with honesty, integrity and a world view which values the human person over power and material gain.
Here I think of the importance of our common conviction that the God whom we seek to serve is a God of peace. His holy Name must never be used to justify hatred and violence. I know that the barbarous attacks on Westgate Mall, Garissa University College and Mandera are fresh in your minds. All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies. How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect! May the Almighty touch the hearts of those who engage in this violence, and grant his peace to our families and communities".