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papa kangemi

Corruption is like sugar, “it is sweet, we like it, it is easy and it leads us to a bitter end: with so much sugar we end up becoming diabetic and our Country ends up becoming diabetic as well”. Pope Francis relies on a metaphor to explain the cancer of corruption, another mantra of his Pontificate, to the young Kenyans assembled at the Nairobi City Stadium. Corruption is everywhere, Bergoglio stressed, answering the question of a young man ”there are cases also in the Vatican”. Every time we accept a bribe and put it in our pocket, we “destroy our heart, destroy our personality and our homeland. Please, do not develop a liking for this sugar whose name is corruption”.

“Does everyone corrupt then?” he asked himself. “If you do not want corruption in your Country, start from yourself. If you do not start, the person next to you will not do so either. Corruption steals our joy and deprives us of peace; the corrupted does not live in peace. Once, a corrupt man died in my country. I asked how was the funeral, and a woman with sense of humor replied: they were not able to close the coffin because he wanted all the money he had stolen to be put inside of it. What you steal with corruption remains here and someone else will use it. Through your corruption, you harm the others. Corruption is not a way of life, but a way of death”.

During his impromptu speech, the Holy Father has focused also on Kenya’s social problems. “Yesterday was a day of prayer and reconciliation – he said. Now, I invite you, young people, to hold our hands as a sign against tribalism. We are one nation. This is how our heart must be. Tribalism is not only help, but also desire and determination. But defeating tribalism is a daily work, a work of the ear, listening to the others, a work of the heart, opening it to the others, is a work of the hand, holding hands one with another. Now, let us hold our hands”.

There is, he explained,  a question at the basis of all the other questions “you have asked me: why do divisions, wars, death, fanaticism, and destruction of young people happen?  Why does desire to destroy exist? On the first page of the Bible, after all the wonders God has done, a brother kills  his brother. The spirit of evil leads us to destruction. The spirit of evil leads us to disunity. It leads us to tribalism, corruption, drug addiction, and destruction due to fanaticism”. The first thing “I would answer – he continued – is that a man or a woman loses the best of their human being when they forget to pray, because they feel almighty, because they do not feel the desire to ask God for help in the face of so many tragedies”. Life is full of difficulties, he admitted, “but there are two ways to look at difficulties: as something that blocks, destroys, and detains you, or as an opportunity. The choice is up to you. Is a difficulty a path of destruction for me or an opportunity to overcome difficulties for me, my family, my country? Young men and women, we do not live in heaven, we live on earth, and earth is full of difficulties. Earth is full not only of difficulty but also of deviations to lead you to evil”.

Before meeting young people, the Holy Father had wanted to offer his solidarity and prayer to the poor by visiting the poor district of Kangemi, a poor neighborhood with no basic services, in the heart of Nairobi.  Its population – over 100 thousand inhabitants – is multi-ethnic. The Pope had walked along the dirt roads until he reached the Catholic parish of St. Joseph the Worker, governed by Jesuits who manage also a clinic, a higher technical school, and a service center for mothers in difficulty. “Thank you for welcoming me to your neighborhood. Thank you to Signor Archbishop Kivuva and father Pascal for their words. Truth to be told – Francis has said during his speech – I feel at home sharing this moment with brothers and sisters who, I am not ashamed to say it, have a special place in my life and in my choices.  I am here because I want you to know that I am not indifferent to joys and hopes, your anxieties and sorrows. I know the difficulties you encounter day by day! How can we not denounce injustices?”

“I would like to claim in the first place these values you practice, values that cannot be quoted on the stock exchange, values with which one cannot speculate and values that do not have a market price – he stressed -. I congratulate you, accompany you and I want you to know that the Lord never forgets about you. Jesus’ journey began on the outskirts, he goes to the poor and with the poor towards everyone else. Recognizing these manifestations of good life that grow every day among you, does not absolutely  mean ignoring the terrible injustice of urban exclusion. Those are wounds caused by the minorities that concentrate power and wealth, people who quander selfishly while the growing majority must take refuge in abandoned, contaminated, and discarded suburbs”. “This is further aggravated when we see the unjust distribution of land (perhaps not in this neighborhood, but in others) which in many cases leads entire families to pay abusive rentals for accommodations in building whose conditions are far from being appropriate. I have found out – the Pope added – also about the serious problem with lands accumulated by “private entrepreneurs” with no faces, who claim even the courtyard of the school their own children go to”.

From this point of view, “a serious problem is lack of access to infrastructure and basic services. I mean to toilets, sewers, drains, waste collection, light, roads, but also schools, hospitals, recreation and sports centers, and artistic workshops. I want to stress drinking water in particular”. It is necessary, according to the Pontiff, “to resume the idea of respectful urban integration. Not lack of roots, paternalism, indifference., nor simple containment. We need integrated cities and for everyone. We need to go beyond the mere declamation of rights that are not respected in practice and implement systematic actions that will improve the popular habitat and design new good-quality urbanizations to accommodate future generations. The social debt, the environmental debt with the poor of the cities will be paid if the sacred right to land, home and work [the three “t”: la tierra, techo, trabajo] is concretized. This is not philanthropy, but everyone’s moral duty”. Hence, the appeal of the Pope, “to all Christians, in particular to the Pastors, to renew their missionary zeal, to take initiative against injustice, to get involved in the problems of the people, to accompany them in their struggles, to preserve the fruits of their collective work and to celebrate every small or great victory”.

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