The Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan, HE Archbishop Charles D Balvo on 13th March 2014 led celebrations to mark the first anniversary of Pope Francis at the See of St. Peter. The celebrations took place at the Apostolic Nunciature in Nairobi.

According to Archbishop Balvo, when the name of the new pope was announced, right there and then, many people realized that there would be something very different about him and during this past year, what we have seen and heard has shown us indeed what a difference he has made in so many ways.

Two months ago, Pope Francis had the first meeting with members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. Among the highlights of the year 2013 that the Holy Father mentioned during his address was the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and South Sudan, a country that is close to his heart.

Pope Francis said the Catholic Church will continue to ensure her presence and cooperation, working generously to help people in every possible way, and above all, to build a climate of reconciliation and peace among all groups and societies.

“Indeed the Holy Father emphasized that the spirit that seeks to promote true peace, grounded on truth, justice, charity and liberty, should be seen in the cooperation that the Holy See and the Catholic Church offer all over the world.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, His Eminence John Cardinal Njue, has called on all people to read the attitude of Pope Francis. Speaking during the anniversary celebrations, Cardinal Njue paid glowing tribute to Pope Francis for his humility and reaching out to all the people regardless of their social, economic or religious backgrounds.

“He was able to come down to the level of the people that he is called to serve and this is very powerful,” said Cardinal Njue adding “may we accompany him in and pray for him that the Lord may give him strength so that the Church can fulfill its mission of being close to all people irrespective of their situations.”

On its part, the Kenya Government has commended the Holy See for its cordial relations and support to the people of Kenya.

Embu Senator Hon. Lenny Kivuti, who represented the National Government during the occasion to mark the first anniversary of Pope Francis, commended the Catholic Church for its active role in the area of education and healthcare provision in the country. “The Catholic church is also one of the largest non-state providers of healthcare services in the country,” said Senator Kivuti. “It has an expansive network which consists of close to 500 health care units and over 50 Community Based Orphanages and Vulnerable Children Programs. The Church has continued to work hand in hand with the Government to offer services at affordable rates to millions of Kenyans especially in the remote arid and semi arid regions of Kenya.”

Senator Kivuti also appreciated the work of the Church in the field of education, saying a lot of progress has been achieved. “The Catholic Church in Kenya has over 8,000 primary and secondary schools, five colleges, a fully-fledged university, and also provides facilities to cater for people with special needs,” said the Senator.

He called for continued and closer collaboration between the Church and the Government to help in programmes such as promotion of peace, social justice, human rights, protection of the environment and eradication of poverty and hunger.

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