Pope Francis visited Nairobi's poorest residents, assuring them that they had "a very special place in [his] life." He had harsh words for the wealthy few, whom he said live at the expense of the poor masses.
Residents of the Kangemi slum in the Kenyan capital Nairobi gave Pope Francis a rapturous welcome during his visit on Friday morning. The pontiff delivered a message of solidarity with the roughly 100,000 people living there in squalid and crowded conditions without basic amenities.
"I am here because I want you to know that I am not indifferent to your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows," Francis told the packed congregation in the church of St. Joseph the Worker in Kangemi.
He had harsh words for wealthy minorities who he said "squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries." He slammed "the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion" on "minorities who cling to power and wealth."
Francis criticized the lack of "infrastructures and basic services," including sewage, electricity, good roads, school and hospitals. "They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism... countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste," he said, adding that some ruthlessly exploit the poor to serve their economic and political needs.
Kangemi is one of 11 slums dotting Nairobi, East Africa's largest city. More than half of Nairobi's 3 million residents live in slums.
People arrived long hours before dawn in the hope of seeing of the pope, who has made humility and help for the poor a hallmark of his tenure. Many residents hope the pontiff's visit will help ease their plight and fight corruption, which is rampant in Kenya.
"It leads to people being poor," Valarie Mamarome, 16, told the Associated Press. Others pointed out that many residents cannot afford basic sanitation or rubbish collection. Water is often not safe to drink.
The fight against poverty has been a key element of Pope Francis's visit. He has called for "integrated cities which belong to everyone" based on the rights to land, lodging and labor.
On Thursday, he urged world leaders to reach a deal on climate change at the upcoming talks in Paris. Not reaching agreement would be "catastrophic," he said.
On Friday, Pope Francis will head to Uganda; his six-day Africa tour will end in the Central African Republic.
ng/kms (AP, AFP, dpa)