Pope visit to UN Office at NairobiGuru Maajabu
In the midst of torrential rain in Nairobi at the time the Pope visited UNON, hundreds of UN staff and Nairobi based diplomats, many of whom with family members, braved the weather and stringent security inspections. Their good mood and humor was not to be “rained on” and their high expectations were met – and then some.
Wherever the Pope turned, there were smiling and joyous faces, out stretched hands hoping for a touch, a look of holy acknowledgement, a whispered blessing directly aimed…The Pontiff’s ears were filled with the singing of the UN Choir, songs of praise in Kiswahili as well as the sharp bird like ululations from the predominately African staff members trying to top the unexpected cries of “Papa” emerging from lips that were normally tight in decorum and only occasionally emitting diplomatic codes familiar only to those with sharply trained hearing.
The Pontiff’s footsteps around the muddy and wet East African grounds were not the first of a Bishop of Rome. That privilege belonged to Pope Paul VI who visited Uganda in 1969. Pope John Paul II visited Kenya three times – in 1980, 1985 and 1995.
But it is difficult to imagine either of the previous Pope receiving a wilder reception than Pope Francis did from diplomats and the Nairobi UN staff in particular.
His departure from UNON, was reluctantly accepted by an audience driven to the heights of exuberance. That it may have also been helped by the
stony looks his Swiss Bodyguards directed at the love-struck multitudes which may have also been a factor.
As the rain eased off, seen as a blessing in this part of the world, the Pontiff bade his hosts farewell and slipped into the back seat of a tiny car, caked with Nairobi mud on the right side.
He was gone. For now.
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