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Nairobi's Conservative Catholics Prepare for Papal Visit

Nairobi's Conservative Catholics Prepare for Papal Visit
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Churchgoers at Nairobi’s Holy Family Minor Basilica seem a bit more joyful these days as they prepare for the arrival of a special visitor to their country.

They're awaiting "a message of hope" from Pope Francis, said Rodgers Mwendwa.

"I think he will bring a good impact and a positive attitude to people, and we should embrace what he’s bringing to Kenyans because he’s our role model,” he said.

Francis, who will arrive in Nairobi on November 25, is seen as more progressive than his predecessors. The question is how those views will resonate with Africans during his first visit to the continent.

In the past decade, Kenya has seen breakaway orders of Catholic priests who decided to get married. Francis has not condoned this but he has reportedly said the Vatican is looking into the question of married priests.

Adenaide Tendwa said she didn't believe priests should be allowed to get married.

“Because it’s better for someone, leading others, spiritually, being single," she said. "Just the way he is. You know, if you say he is going to get married, some things will come in. He needs to take care of the family, the interests of the family, the wife and everything. I think spiritually, it will affect.”

Samuel Gitau agreed.

“When they marry, I feel they will not be able to concentrate in the church affairs, yeah,” he said.

Francis has said he wants to see a "greater role" for women in Catholicism but that he is against ordaining women priests.

Church usher Josephine Kivuva agreed with that position.

“Because the men are the ones who have been priests up till now, and they have done a pretty good job," she said. "And also, I think the disciples that Jesus chose, when he was here on Earth, they were all men. Particularly maybe for a reason, for us to take as an example.”

But Mwendwa said women should get the opportunity, too.

“Yes, because in the kingdom of God, even women should have some part to play,” he said.

It is on the topic of homosexuality that Pope Francis may most diverge with church members in Africa. While the pope says marriage should remain an institution between a man and a woman, he has not categorically ruled out civil unions. And he has urged love and mercy for gay people.

Kenya, on the other hand, outlines its stance clearly: Homosexuality is illegal.

Church members said they didn't condone it. Tendwa said that "in the Bible we read, we need to get married and bring up children. Now when you bring homosexuality, that one will not be having a family, yeah.”

But Catholics in Nairobi said they were ready to set differences of opinion aside.

“When the pope gives us direction, we need to follow it, according to the tradition of the church,” Kivuva said.