Pope Francis has called on humanity to reconnect with nature

2015-11-25 21:00
Pope Francis is greeted by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta upon his arrival at Nairobi's State House. (Andrew Medichini, AP)

Pope Francis is greeted by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta upon his arrival at Nairobi's State House. (Andrew Medichini, AP)

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Nairobi - Pope Francis on Wednesday called on humanity to reconnect with nature in order to fight divisions and poverty, which he described as breeding grounds for terrorism.

"There is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order," the pontiff said in a speech before Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other dignitaries in Nairobi at the start of a six-day Africa tour.

"A renewal of our relationship with nature" would help to renew humanity, Francis said, calling for "tolerance and respect for others".

"Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration," the pope said.

Francis' schedule in Kenya includes a visit to the United Nations Environment Programme, where he will give a speech related to the climate change conference about to open in Paris, Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi said.

Earlier on Thursday, the 78-year-old Argentinian pontiff is due to celebrate mass in front of about 500 000 people in Nairobi in what is expected to be the largest event of his first Africa tour, which will also take him to Uganda and the Central African Republic.

On Friday, Francis will visit Kangemi, a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi housing about 100 000 people.

In his speech, the pope - who has made fighting poverty one of the central themes of his pontificate - urged the Kenyan government to "show genuine concern for the needs of the poor" in the country where a quarter of the 45-million population lives on less than one dollar a day.

"I am delighted to go visit Kenyans, Ugandans and the brothers from the Central African Republic," the pope had told journalists on the plane, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

He had greeted all of the 74 journalists individually and wished them a good journey.

Kenyatta welcomed Francis at Nairobi airport, where the navy mounted a gun salute and the political class lined up to shake hands with the pontiff.

11th trip

The pope waved at crowds as he was driven from the airport to the State House.

Africa is home to an estimated 180 million Catholics, and numbers are rapidly rising.

There has been concern especially over the pope's visit to the Central African Republic, a country riddled by violence between Muslim rebels and Christian militias, with thousands killed since the conflict erupted in 2013.

The trip is Francis' 11th one abroad since he became pope in 2013.

Before setting off from Rome, the pontiff welcomed at the Vatican 11 female victims of domestic violence and of the prostitution trade, the Vatican said in a statement.

The women, hailing from Italy, Nigeria, Romania and Ukraine and hosted in a shelter near Rome run by a Catholic institution, also brought along six children, the statement added.

Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  uhuru kenyatta  |  pope francis  |  kenya  |  east africa  |  religion

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