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Some Kenyans left Mass fearing stampede

26 November 2015, 17:11

Nairobi — The latest on Pope Francis' first trip to Africa. (All times local.)


11:45 a.m.

Some of the Kenyans hoping to see Pope Francis at his first public Mass in Africa have gone home, fearing a stampede due to disorganization.

Kenyan authorities estimated that as many as 1.4 million people could turn out for Thursday's Mass at the University of Nairobi campus and surrounding parks. Vatican officials put the estimate at nearly a third of that, but one of the nearby parks that was expected to be full was nearly half empty.

Sarah Ondiso, a senior government official, says she came to the grounds at 4:30 a.m. but left because of the disorganization. She says she waited in one line for two hours, then crowds were moved from one gate to the next with security unsure where to direct people.

She says she eventually left because she feared a stampede. She says: "We were all disappointed."

—Tom Odula, Nairobi.


10:30 a.m.

Pope Francis is issuing a strong appeal for traditional family values in his first public Mass in Africa.

In his homily Thursday, Francis called for Kenyans to support families and welcome children as a blessing. He urged them to resist practices "which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women and threaten the life of the innocent unborn."

The African church is among the most conservative in the world, and African bishops have been at the forefront in insisting that traditional church teachings on marriage and sexuality, and its opposition to abortion, be strongly emphasized.

Francis obliged, but also stressed issues of his own concern: He called for Kenyans to shape a more just society that looks out for the poor and to "reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things are not of God."

—Nicole Winfield, Nairobi.


10:10 a.m.

Kenyan Sen. Hassan Omar, a Muslim, says he has keenly followed Pope Francis and has welcomed his message of tolerance and care for the poor.

He says: "This pope has transcended religious fault lines. He has talked about of plight Palestinians, the weak and the downtrodden. He epitomizes simplicity and demonstrated that he is foremost defender for social justice."

According to Omar, Francis has emerged as a global leader and his message is important for Africa, which faces many challenges, from corruption, poverty and religious extremism, among others.

— Tom Odula, Nairobi.


10 a.m.

Nelly Ndunge says the pope's visit to Kenya is a blessing because it will renew her faith and had boosted her printing business.

The 29-year-old Kenyan says she sold nearly 3,000 copies of a 2016 calendar with the pope's portrait on it.

Ndunge says she had been on the road since 5 a.m. to get to the University of Nairobi campus for Francis' first public Mass on Thursday morning. Others had been there since 3 a.m., braving heavy downpours that soaked the grounds.

She says: "I am a Catholic and I believe he is godsend. We hope his visit will bring positive change. Sometimes we lose faith so I hope he can strengthen my faith in God."

— Tom Odula, Nairobi.


9:40 a.m.

Pope Francis has boarded his open-sided popemobile for a spin through the tens of thousands of people gathered for his first public Mass in Africa.

A sea of umbrellas awaited Francis at the University of Nairobi campus, and thousands of people stood in lines several kilometers (miles) long to try to get close to the site.

Kenyans are singing, dancing and cheering as he passes by.

Francis arrived in Kenya on Wednesday on his first trip to Africa. Earlier Thursday, he told Christian and Muslim leaders they have little choice but to engage in dialogue to ward off the "barbarous" extremist attacks that have hit Kenya recently.

— Nicole Winfield, Nairobi.

- AP


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