Thousands of Catholic faithful celebrated Mass with Pope Francis on the second day of his official visit to Kenya.
In his message the Pope called for unity, tolerance and strengthening of family values for a better society.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta joined the Catholic faithful in celebrating the Mass at the University of Nairobi sports ground.
Thousands of enthusiastic Kenyans filled Nairobi streets from as early as 3:00 am despite the rains that pounded the city the whole night. The pilgrims streamed to the venue singing hymns and braving the chilly weather in readiness to celebrate the papal Mass.
Uhuru Park and Central park were filled to capacity as faithful keenly watched and participated in the celebration through huge mounted TV screens.
In his homily, Pope Francis called on Kenyans to continue embracing strong family values based on the word of God and African traditions.
He said couples need to cherish one another to build an environment of stable families saying God’s desire is to have strong families built on the foundation of his holy word.
“God wants all of us to build our lives in the foundation of his word, that is the charge the Lord gives to each of us,” said Pope Francis.
He also challenged Kenyans to show concern for the poor and learn to live in harmony and respect with one another.
“May God bless all Kenyans with His peace, stand strong in faith. Do not be afraid, for you belong to the Lord. Mungu awabariki. Mungu abariki Kenya,” he said.
The Pope also urged the youth to build a just society that is inclusive.
“Here in the heart of this university where the minds and hearts of the young are being shaped, I appeal to the young people of this generation to build a society that is more just and inclusive. May you always be concerned for the welfare of the poor,” he said. “In obedience to the Word, we are called to resist practices which foster arrogance in men, and hurt or demean women.”
The pontiff denounced abortion and corruption among other vices in the society.
John Cardinal Njue expressed deep gratitude to Pope Francis for visiting Kenya and conducting public Mass.
“We are greatly indebted to you for this gesture, your visit here has been a source of strength and spiritual nourishment” said Cardinal Njue.
He thanked President Kenyatta for ensuring the success of the Pope’s visit and constantly monitoring preparations for the pontiff.
Former President Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also attended the Mass which was celebrated by catholic faithful from all walks of life.
Earlier in the morning, Pope Francis began his tight schedule programme by holding talks with interreligious leaders meeting in Lavington.
During the meeting, Pope Francis said dialogue between religions in Africa was essential to teach young people that violence and hate in God’s name was unjustified.
Interfaith reconciliation, promotion of peace and economic inequality is the main theme of his first tour of the continent that also takes him to Uganda, and the Central African Republic.
“All too often, young people are being radicalised in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies,” the pope told the interreligious leaders gathered in Lavington.
He stressed that God’s name “must never be used to justify hatred and violence.”
The chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem), Prof Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, also called for unity and tolerance.
“As people of one God and of this world we must stand up and in unison, clasp hands together in all the things that are essential for our collective progress,” he said at the meeting, adding doctrinal differences should be put aside.
Later Thursday afternoon the pope visits the regional U.N. headquarters in Nairobi, where he is expected to address climate issues.