Pope Arrives In Uganda On His Visit Through 'The Continent Of Hope'

Nov 27, 2015
Originally published on November 27, 2015 6:16 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Uganda today, Pope Francis was given a joyful welcome. He arrived there from Kenya, making the second stop of a three-nation tour through Africa. Part of the reason he's in Uganda is to honor the memory of a group of 19th century martyrs. He also spoke about issues affecting much of Africa, which he called the continent of hope. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is on the line from the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Hi there, Sylvia.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Hi there, Ari.

SHAPIRO: You told us yesterday about the huge crowds that Pope Francis drew in Kenya. How was his welcome in Uganda today?

POGGIOLI: It was wild. It was tumultuous. When he arrived at the airport, there was a formal honor guard, and a band played as the pope stood next to President Museveni. And then a large number of dancers and costumed singers and drummers welcomed the pope to the rhythmic sounds of traditional music. Here's some of it right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

POGGIOLI: Then as we drove the hour or so into the city of Kampala, tens of thousands of people lined the route. That was the biggest turnout I've seen so far in Africa for Pope Francis.

SHAPIRO: That sounds joyous. The pope came, as we mentioned, from Kenya, and it sounds like his final day there was really busy. He visited one of Nairobi's slums? What did he say there?

POGGIOLI: Well, you know, as archbishop of Buenos Aires before he became pope, Francis was known as the slum priest for all the time he spent ministering to the poor in the city's shantytowns. And when he arrived at the Kangemi slum today, he said he felt at home, and he delivered one of the toughest speeches of this trip. He denounced the living conditions in the overcrowded neighborhood, the lack of infrastructures and basic services, schools and hospitals. And he has spoken out a lot against the health risks of megacities due to environmental degradation, overcrowding and urban chaos. So in a city where 60 percent of the population lives in shantytowns, this was the perfect location to touch on one of these issues that's so close to Francis's heart.

SHAPIRO: Before the pope arrived, many people in Africa said they hoped he would talk about two of the continent's big challenges - corruption and tribalism. And he did speak about those issues today. What'd he say?

POGGIOLI: Well, he spoke to a large gathering of young people in Nairobi Stadium. He scrapped his prepared text and the adlibbed about the problems young people face. Francis urged young people to resist corruption, which he said is like sugar - sweet and easy. And he acknowledged that even in the Vatican there's corruption. In the end, he said, it's bad for you. And then speaking of tribalism, he was very forceful. He said that tribalism has led to violence in some African nations, and he said it's like corruption and drugs, a fanaticism that leads to destruction. And then referring to extremism, he said the antidote is education and employment. If a young person has no work, he asked, what kind of future does he or she have? That's where there's the danger of being recruited.

SHAPIRO: As we mentioned, part of the reason for the pope coming to Uganda is to honor a group of 19th century martyrs. Tell us a little bit about what he has planned there.

POGGIOLI: Well, he will visit the shrine tomorrow. He will celebrate Mass. This is the 50th anniversary of the canonization of these martyrs. But there's also a lot of speculation whether Pope Francis will address the thorny issue of Africans' attitudes towards homosexuality, which is banned in several countries on this continent. African gays hope that Francis will stun the world with his line about gays, who am I to judge, will bring a message of tolerance. But African Catholic leaders, who see tolerance of homosexuality as something alien that's imposed on Africa by Westerners, they hope the pope avoids the topic completely.

SHAPIRO: All right. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, speaking with us from Kampala, Uganda. It's the pope's second stop on a three-nation tour of Africa.

Thanks Sylvia.

POGGIOLI: Thank you Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.