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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
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POPE FRANCIS DELIVERS STERN WARNING AHEAD OF PARIS CLIMATE MEETING


NOVEMBER 26 -People sit in the mud and rain as they attend a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the campus of the University of Nairobi in Kenya Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Francis met with a small group of Kenya’s faith leaders before celebrating his first public Mass on the continent, a joyful, rain-soaked celebration attended by tens of thousands of faithful, including Kenya’s president. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) Pope Francis celebrated a historic Mass in Kenya on Thursday before delivering a stern environmental warning just days ahead of a key climate change conference in Paris. "It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects," the Pope said, urging nations to reach an agreement over curbing fossil fuel emissions. He urged politicians to work together with the corporate and scientific worlds, and civil society leaders in finding solutions to stop environmental degradation. No country, he said, "can act independently of a common responsibility. If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly accept our interdependence." The Pope spoke at the world headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. The U.N. climate change conference opens next week. But it was Francis' comments on the pillaging of African resources that drew a louder response from the crowd. He said Africans cannot afford to remain silent on the illegal trade in precious stones and the poaching of elephants for ivory, which "fuels political instability, organized crime and terrorism."  The message reverberated with the crowd in what is arguably the Pope's most important speech during his first papal visit to Africa. Climate change, like poverty, is a hallmark issue for Francis, the first leader at the Vatican who hails from the developing world. Other popes have visited Kenya, but the welcome was particularly warm for the populist Pope. Humility, service to the poor Francis arrived in Kenya on Wednesday and from there will travel to Uganda and the conflict-ravaged Central African Republic. His time in Nairobi so far has highlighted two issues close to his heart: humility and service to the less fortunate. During Mass earlier Thursday, he called on citizens to reach out to the downtrodden. "I appeal in a special way to the young people of the nation," he said. " ... May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor and reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things, we know, are not of God." Kenya declared the day a national public holiday as throngs of jubilant Catholics flocked to Nairobi to hear the Pope. He drove past the crowd in his popemobile, waving to thousands who started lining the streets at dawn to catch a glimpse of him. READ MORE...

ALSO: Set to share disaster experience, Aquino flies to Paris


NOVEMBER 29 -President Aquino delivers a statement at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 before flying to Paris, France to participate in the 21st Conference of Parties and to chair the Climate Vulnerable Forum. Malacañang Photo Bureau
President Benigno Aquino III departed Manila for Paris on Sunday to share the country's experience bearing the brunt of natural disasters believed to be worsened by climate change.
Aquino will join other world leaders at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the French capital aiming to reach a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change. "Sa Climate Vulnerable Forum naman po, magsisilbi tayong kinatawan ng mga bansang pangunahing naaapektuhan ng dumadalas at lumalakas na bugso ng kalamidad na dulot ng pagbabago sa klima," Aquino said in his departure message at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on Sunday morning. Aquino said the Philippines is France's ally in its fight to address climate change with French President Francois Hollande choosing Manila to call for action in February in a state visit. "Sa pagtungo naman natin sa France, ipapaabot natin ang ating pakikidalamhati sa kanilang mamamayan sa karumal-dumal na pangyayari sa kanilang bansa kamakailan lang. Nakikiisa po tayo sa kanila sa pagkondena sa ganitong karahasan na dulot ng pansariling interes ng masasamang elemento," Aquino said. Besides pushing for an environmental advocacy in France, Aquino said he will also meet with businessmen and present what the Philippines has to offer in terms of investment opportunities. READ MORE...

ALSO: Thousands of Pinoys march for climate justice
[“We are marching in the Philippines because it is about our survival – thousands of Filipinos have lost their lives because of climate change. We are marching because of the urgency – we only have a small window of time to prevent climate chaos,” said Lidy Nacpil of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.]


NOVEMBER 29 -Organizers of the Global Climate March estimate that around 10,000 Filipinos have joined various activities held in different parts of the country. Philstar.com/File 
MANILA, Philippines - Two days ahead of the climate summit in Paris, thousands of Filipinos yesterday joined the global call for a binding agreement that would address the threats and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Organizers of the Global Climate March estimate that around 10,000 Filipinos have joined various activities held in different parts of the country. Six different groups marched in major roads in Quezon City and converged at the Quezon Memorial Circle to highlight their demands for world leaders participating in the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris starting tomorrow. Dexter Cardenas, chief of the Quezon City’s Department of Public Order and Safety traffic operations division, said almost 3,000 advocates gathered on Commonwealth, Kalayaan, East, North and Visayas avenues to join the march. The groups then converged at the Quezon Memorial Circle where they had a short program at around 8 a.m. on Saturday. “They caused traffic when they crossed from one venue to another, but our traffic enforcers were able to control them. The traffic only lasted for a few minutes,” Cardenas said. Each of the groups carried climate-related themes: energy transformation, right to food, land and water, justice and reparations for affected peoples, protection of our common home, jobs and just transition and the youth. “The time for responsible climate action has long been overdue,” Anna Abad of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said. “We are one with the people in calling on government leaders to avert climate catastrophe and make the fossil fuel industry liable for the injustices being wrought by their polluting activities. We hope that Paris will not let us down.” Advocates urged world leaders, including President Aquino, to come up with a bold and meaningful agreement that would address the urgency of the climate crisis with decisive, just, fair and ambitious actions. “We have had it with mere posturing and pandering statements from world leaders, including our own, when it comes to the climate. If they are truly committed to solving this crisis, they will heed the call for changing the system of energy, production and their paradigm of development. The time to act was yesterday,” said Gerry Arances of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice. “The time for system change is now,” he added. Joel Palma, president of World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines, called on leaders to keep temperatures from rising by implementing measures such as transformation of energy systems and shift to clean and renewable energies. “We march because we do not want to live in fear of the next storm, nor the time when rising oceans will swallow up our islands. We march because we know that our collective call can convince COP21’s leaders to do the right thing,” Palma said. Other demands of the advocates include the protection of people’s right to food and water, delivery of climate finance to empower people and setting of global targets to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. READ MORE...

ALSO Dangerous part of tour: Pope a ‘pilgrim of peace’ in Central African Republic


NOVEMBER 29 -WARM WELCOME Pope Francis walks after being welcomed by interim leader of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba Panza. AFP PHOTO 
BANGUI, Central African Republic: Pope Francis arrived as “a pilgrim of peace” in conflict-ridden Central African Republic on Sunday, flying in from Uganda on what will be the most dangerous destination of his three-nation Africa tour.Thousands of believers, many from neighboring countries, are expected to pour into CAR’s capital Bangui to see the 78-year-old pontiff on his landmark visit to one of Africa’s poorest and most unstable countries.“I come to the Central African Republic as a pilgrim of peace and as an apostle of hope,” the pope said on his official Twitter feed as his plane touched down at around 10 a.m. at Bangui’s international airport where he was greeted by acting CAR President Catherine Samba-Panza.Ahead of his arrival, the roads leading to the airport were bristling with troops and security forces, an Agence France-Presse correspondent said.Close to the airport, tens of thousands of displaced people have sought refuge from the violence at a sprawling makeshift camp near French and UN military bases.Ahead of the pope’s arrival, workers have been busily repairing potholes and sprucing up the cathedral square for the visit, which many are hoping will bring encouragement to a country where religious violence has raged for more than two years.Rights groups hope the Argentinian pope will address the violence on his two-day trip during which he will visit a mosque in Bangui’s flashpoint PK5 district, a maze of red dirt roads and flimsy shacks that has been at the heart of the sectarian conflict tearing the impoverished nation apart.The area saw an unprecedented wave of violence pitting majority Christians against minority Muslims in late 2013 and early last year.‘He knows about our country’Francis is also due to celebrate Mass in the Barthelemy Boganda sports stadium and visit a camp for people who have been displaced by the violence.Stalls have sprung up across the capital selling everything from Vatican flags to paper crowns to welcome the pope.“We are very pleased to see the pope,” said Fidele Nodjindorom, who is sheltering at a camp in Bangui.“He knows that things have happened in our country and maybe he has come to ask God to save us.”The Central African Republic was plunged into chaos after President Francois Bozize was ousted in a coup in March 2013.READ MORE...RELATED,
Joy as Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Nairobi...

ALSO: Pope in Africa hopes to bridge Christian-Muslim faultlines
[Kenya Pope Francis has called for ethnic and religious reconciliation at the start of his first tour of Africa, where he will address a fast-growing Catholic population and seek to heal Christian-Muslim divisions. The trip will see the head of the Catholic Church travel to Kenya and Uganda, both victim of Islamist militant attacks, and the Central African Republic, a country torn apart by Muslim-Christian strife.]


NOVEMBER 26 -Pope Francis talks to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO: Pope Francis (2nd R) walks with Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta (2nd L) after arriving in Nairobi as part of his Africa tour. (AFP: Simon Maina) Pope Francis called on Wednesday for ethnic and religious reconciliation at the start of his first tour of Africa, where he will address a fast-growing Catholic population and seek to heal Christian-Muslim divisions. The trip will see the head of the Catholic Church travel to Kenya and Uganda, both victim of Islamist militant attacks, and the Central African Republic, a country torn apart by Muslim-Christian strife. In a speech delivered shortly after arriving in Kenya, the pope urged world leaders to pursue responsible economic development and to protect nature for future generations. Francis is expected to address climate issues when he visits the regional U.N. headquarters in Nairobi on Thursday. "To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing," the pope said in Nairobi. He was speaking at State House, the official residence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is a Catholic along with about 30 percent of Kenya's 45 million people. As the pope drove into Nairobi from airport, thousands lined the roads to greet him. Africa's Catholic Church is expanding quickly, with the number of faithful expected to more than double to half a billion in 2050. The number of Muslims on the continent is also forecast to rise by about the same amount to 670 million. At State House, the pope called for responsible development in Africa and elsewhere. One of his first actions in Kenya was to plant a tree on the State House grounds. "The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature," he said. "We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to the future generations." Millions of Christians - Catholics and otherwise - are expected to turn out for public celebrations of Masses during the tour, presenting a challenge for national security forces to keep the pontiff and the vast crowds safe. Kenya has suffered a spate of attacks by Somalia's Islamist group al Shabaab in the past two years that have killed hundreds of people, including the 2013 raid on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed 67. Kenya has also been plagued by ethnic tensions. READ MORE..., RELATED, Al Shabaab insurgents kill at least 13 in Mogadishu hotel car bombing...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Pope Francis delivers stern warning ahead of Paris climate conference


People sit in the mud and rain as they attend a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the campus of the University of Nairobi in Kenya Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Francis met with a small group of Kenya’s faith leaders before celebrating his first public Mass on the continent, a joyful, rain-soaked celebration attended by tens of thousands of faithful, including Kenya’s president. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

KENYA, AFRICA, NOVEMBER 30, 2015 (CNN PHILIPPINES) By Faith Karimi, CNN Updated 11:24 PM ET, Thu November 26, 2015 (CNN)Pope Francis celebrated a historic Mass in Kenya on Thursday before delivering a stern environmental warning just days ahead of a key climate change conference in Paris.

"It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects," the Pope said, urging nations to reach an agreement over curbing fossil fuel emissions.

He urged politicians to work together with the corporate and scientific worlds, and civil society leaders in finding solutions to stop environmental degradation.

No country, he said, "can act independently of a common responsibility. If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly accept our interdependence."

The Pope spoke at the world headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. The U.N. climate change conference opens next week.

But it was Francis' comments on the pillaging of African resources that drew a louder response from the crowd.

He said Africans cannot afford to remain silent on the illegal trade in precious stones and the poaching of elephants for ivory, which "fuels political instability, organized crime and terrorism."

The message reverberated with the crowd in what is arguably the Pope's most important speech during his first papal visit to Africa.

Climate change, like poverty, is a hallmark issue for Francis, the first leader at the Vatican who hails from the developing world. Other popes have visited Kenya, but the welcome was particularly warm for the populist Pope.

Humility, service to the poor
Francis arrived in Kenya on Wednesday and from there will travel to Uganda and the conflict-ravaged Central African Republic.

His time in Nairobi so far has highlighted two issues close to his heart: humility and service to the less fortunate.

During Mass earlier Thursday, he called on citizens to reach out to the downtrodden.

"I appeal in a special way to the young people of the nation," he said. " ... May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor and reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things, we know, are not of God."

Kenya declared the day a national public holiday as throngs of jubilant Catholics flocked to Nairobi to hear the Pope.

He drove past the crowd in his popemobile, waving to thousands who started lining the streets at dawn to catch a glimpse of him.

READ MORE...

When he got to the University of Nairobi, the site of his first Mass in Africa, choirs and traditional dancers swayed to Swahili Christian music as they waited.

Music mixed with the sound of rain wafted across the field as crowds peeked from under multicolored umbrellas.

"I wish I was at that Mass now," said Jane Waceke, who was watching the Pope on television in the town of Nakuru.

"He's just what we needed, someone to lift Kenyans' spirits after the terrorist attacks we've had. I have a sense of peace and calm just watching him."

Francis' arrival in Nairobi was itself a lesson in humility.

He rode from the airport in a small gray Honda, dwarfed by a convoy of shiny SUVs and sleek Mercedes carrying Kenyan officials.

"His ride was the kind of car Kenya's affluent would not even accept in the exclusive membership clubs or the leafy gated communities," Kenya's Standard newspaper wrote on its website.

His visit will include a stop in Kangemi, a shantytown in Nairobi. In the Central African Republic, he will visit a refugee camp.


Pope Francis visited St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Parish, TWEET Kangemi #PopeInKenya

Hope, peace
The Pope's message of hope, peace and reconciliation will reach out to a continent with the faith's fastest growing population.

"The Catholic population there (Africa) has grown by 238% since 1980 and is approaching 200 million," said Bill O'Keefe, a vice president at Catholic Relief Services, a church-affiliated U.S. humanitarian group that does work in Africa.

"If the current trends continue, 24% of Africans will be Catholic by 2040."

Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict, also visited several countries in Africa. During his nearly three decades in the papacy, Pope John Paul II also made dozens of trips to the continent.

Symbolic visit
Like most countries, the nations he's visiting have their own narratives of success and heartbreak.

Kenya and Uganda have been victims of the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, which has unleashed terror and mayhem in those countries, together with Somalia, where it's based.

His visit comes as dispirited Kenyans condemn their leaders over a series of corruption scandals, and Islamist militants' repeated attacks that have killed hundreds in recent years.

The Pope urged Kenyan leaders to be transparent and ensure equal wealth distribution to stop youth from radicalizing.

"Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration," he said.

He also called for the protection of traditional family values and children, whom he called a blessing.

'Unifying gesture'
Aside from visiting a region that will shape the face of the Catholic Church, the Pope's plan to stop at a mosque in the Central African Republic sends a powerful message.

In the Central African Republic, a Muslim rebel group overthrew the Christian president two years ago, prompting reprisal attacks by both Christian and Muslim militias.

Those attacks continue to this day, and have displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

"May my visit to Africa be a sign of the Church's esteem for all religions, and strengthen our bonds of friendship," Francis tweeted.

CNN's Robyn Kriel, Radina Gigova and Moni Basu contributed to this report.


PHILSTAR

Set to share disaster experience, Aquino flies to Paris (philstar.com) | Updated November 29, 2015 - 3:37pm 0 0 googleplus0 0


President Aquino delivers a statement at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 before flying to Paris, France to participate in the 21st Conference of Parties and to chair the Climate Vulnerable Forum. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III departed Manila for Paris on Sunday to share the country's experience bearing the brunt of natural disasters believed to be worsened by climate change.

Aquino will join other world leaders at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the French capital aiming to reach a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change.

"Sa Climate Vulnerable Forum naman po, magsisilbi tayong kinatawan ng mga bansang pangunahing naaapektuhan ng dumadalas at lumalakas na bugso ng kalamidad na dulot ng pagbabago sa klima," Aquino said in his departure message at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on Sunday morning.

Aquino said the Philippines is France's ally in its fight to address climate change with French President Francois Hollande choosing Manila to call for action in February in a state visit.

"Sa pagtungo naman natin sa France, ipapaabot natin ang ating pakikidalamhati sa kanilang mamamayan sa karumal-dumal na pangyayari sa kanilang bansa kamakailan lang. Nakikiisa po tayo sa kanila sa pagkondena sa ganitong karahasan na dulot ng pansariling interes ng masasamang elemento," Aquino said.

Besides pushing for an environmental advocacy in France, Aquino said he will also meet with businessmen and present what the Philippines has to offer in terms of investment opportunities.

READ MORE...

"Sa paghikayat natin sa kanilang mamuhunan at magpalawak ng negosyo dito sa Pilipinas, mas dumadami ang nalilikhang pagkakataon para sa ating mga kababayan," Aquino said.

The president will go on a three-country trip to Europe, dropping by Italy after his visit in France to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"Lalagda po tayo doon ng mga kasunduang lalong magpapabuti sa kabuhayan ng ating mamamayan," Aquino said.

He is also scheduled to greet members of the Filipino community in Rome.

Aquino will then go to Vatican City to undertake a reciprocal visit to Pope Francis, the leader of the predominantly Catholic nation he leads. The pope visited the Philippines in January.

"Sasaksihan natin doon ang pagbebendisyon sa imahen ng Mahal na Birhen ng Peñafrancia. Dadalaw rin po tayo kay Papa Francisco, upang ipaabot ang ating mga panalangin para sa bansa at sa ating mga kababayan, na alam nating malapit sa kanyang puso," Aquino said.


PHILSTAR

Thousands of Pinoys march for climate justice By Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 29, 2015 - 12:00am 1 21 googleplus0 0


Organizers of the Global Climate March estimate that around 10,000 Filipinos have joined various activities held in different parts of the country. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines - Two days ahead of the climate summit in Paris, thousands of Filipinos yesterday joined the global call for a binding agreement that would address the threats and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Organizers of the Global Climate March estimate that around 10,000 Filipinos have joined various activities held in different parts of the country.

Six different groups marched in major roads in Quezon City and converged at the Quezon Memorial Circle to highlight their demands for world leaders participating in the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris starting tomorrow.

Dexter Cardenas, chief of the Quezon City’s Department of Public Order and Safety traffic operations division, said almost 3,000 advocates gathered on Commonwealth, Kalayaan, East, North and Visayas avenues to join the march.

The groups then converged at the Quezon Memorial Circle where they had a short program at around 8 a.m. on Saturday.

“They caused traffic when they crossed from one venue to another, but our traffic enforcers were able to control them. The traffic only lasted for a few minutes,” Cardenas said.

Each of the groups carried climate-related themes: energy transformation, right to food, land and water, justice and reparations for affected peoples, protection of our common home, jobs and just transition and the youth.

“The time for responsible climate action has long been overdue,” Anna Abad of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said.

“We are one with the people in calling on government leaders to avert climate catastrophe and make the fossil fuel industry liable for the injustices being wrought by their polluting activities. We hope that Paris will not let us down.”

Advocates urged world leaders, including President Aquino, to come up with a bold and meaningful agreement that would address the urgency of the climate crisis with decisive, just, fair and ambitious actions.

“We have had it with mere posturing and pandering statements from world leaders, including our own, when it comes to the climate. If they are truly committed to solving this crisis, they will heed the call for changing the system of energy, production and their paradigm of development. The time to act was yesterday,” said Gerry Arances of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

“The time for system change is now,” he added.

Joel Palma, president of World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines, called on leaders to keep temperatures from rising by implementing measures such as transformation of energy systems and shift to clean and renewable energies.

“We march because we do not want to live in fear of the next storm, nor the time when rising oceans will swallow up our islands. We march because we know that our collective call can convince COP21’s leaders to do the right thing,” Palma said.

Other demands of the advocates include the protection of people’s right to food and water, delivery of climate finance to empower people and setting of global targets to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.

READ MORE...

“We are marching in the Philippines because it is about our survival – thousands of Filipinos have lost their lives because of climate change. We are marching because of the urgency – we only have a small window of time to prevent climate chaos,” said Lidy Nacpil of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.

“We are marching to demand justice – those who are least responsible for climate change suffer its worst impacts, those who contributed the most to the problem are pledging the least of their fair share of the efforts to solve it. We are marching because it takes the power of collective action to dismantle the power of corporations, to compel politicians to do the right thing or step aside, to pursue our vision for a better world,” she added.

“The Philippines, a tropical archipelago besieged by an average of 20 storms yearly, is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. In recent years it has been experiencing significant climate change impacts such as super typhoons and other extreme weather events when the average global temperature rise reached 0.8 C above pre-industrial levels,” said Denise Fontanilla of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.

Some 60 marches, as well as over 2,300 events, around the world are being held as a lead-up to the COP21.

The Global Climate March consists of 60 other major marches, plus more than 2,300 events, in over 150 countries on the eve of the COP21 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris. – Robertzon Ramirez, Rhodina Villanueva


MANILA TIMES

Pope a ‘pilgrim of peace’ in Central African Republic
November 29, 2015 11:02 pm


WARM WELCOME Pope Francis walks after being welcomed by interim leader of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba Panza. AFP PHOTO

BANGUI, Central African Republic: Pope Francis arrived as “a pilgrim of peace” in conflict-ridden Central African Republic on Sunday, flying in from Uganda on what will be the most dangerous destination of his three-nation Africa tour.

Thousands of believers, many from neighboring countries, are expected to pour into CAR’s capital Bangui to see the 78-year-old pontiff on his landmark visit to one of Africa’s poorest and most unstable countries.

“I come to the Central African Republic as a pilgrim of peace and as an apostle of hope,” the pope said on his official Twitter feed as his plane touched down at around 10 a.m. at Bangui’s international airport where he was greeted by acting CAR President Catherine Samba-Panza.

Ahead of his arrival, the roads leading to the airport were bristling with troops and security forces, an Agence France-Presse correspondent said.

Close to the airport, tens of thousands of displaced people have sought refuge from the violence at a sprawling makeshift camp near French and UN military bases.

Ahead of the pope’s arrival, workers have been busily repairing potholes and sprucing up the cathedral square for the visit, which many are hoping will bring encouragement to a country where religious violence has raged for more than two years.

Rights groups hope the Argentinian pope will address the violence on his two-day trip during which he will visit a mosque in Bangui’s flashpoint PK5 district, a maze of red dirt roads and flimsy shacks that has been at the heart of the sectarian conflict tearing the impoverished nation apart.

The area saw an unprecedented wave of violence pitting majority Christians against minority Muslims in late 2013 and early last year.

‘He knows about our country’

Francis is also due to celebrate Mass in the Barthelemy Boganda sports stadium and visit a camp for people who have been displaced by the violence.

Stalls have sprung up across the capital selling everything from Vatican flags to paper crowns to welcome the pope.

“We are very pleased to see the pope,” said Fidele Nodjindorom, who is sheltering at a camp in Bangui.

“He knows that things have happened in our country and maybe he has come to ask God to save us.”

The Central African Republic was plunged into chaos after President Francois Bozize was ousted in a coup in March 2013.

READ MORE...

The mainly Muslim rebels behind the coup went on a rampage that triggered the creation of the equally dangerous anti-Balaka militia in mostly Christian communities.

Concerns about the pope’s safety have been running high ahead of his visit, and the pontiff’s chief bodyguard, Domenico Gianni, has spent several days consulting local security forces.

Speaking late on Saturday, the Vatican’s spokesman said Francis’ itinerary had been confirmed and all was expected to go ahead as planned, including the visit to PK5 “if there are no particular surprises.”

“Everything has been done to ensure the safety of the pope… there is no real threat,” said CAR Public Security Minister Chrysostome Sambia, while admitting there have been reports of “ill-intentioned groups in some areas.”

‘A real opportunity’

At the height of the massacres, around one in five of CAR’s 4.6 million people were displaced and half the population depended on humanitarian aid.

Violence continues to stalk the country, with at least 61 people killed in Bangui in late September before UN and French peacekeeping forces intervened.

Ilaria Allegrozzi of rights group Amnesty International said the pope “has a real opportunity to call for the protection of civilians of all faiths, and use his great moral authority to help reduce the tension that has recently resulted in deadly violence.”

The pontiff left Uganda early Sunday, a day after huge crowds celebrated as he honored Christians martyred for the faith on the second leg of his first trip to Africa, which he hailed as “the continent of hope.”

He also offered prayers for “the beloved people of Burundi” that the troubled central African nation will end months of strife that has sparked fears of renewed civil war.
AFP

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RELATED FROM CNN PHILIPPINES

Joy as Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Nairobi By EUNICE KILONZO NOVEMBER 26, 2015


Pope Francis waves as he arrives to celebrate a Mass at the campus of the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Pope Francis told Christian and Muslim leaders in Kenya on Thursday that they have little choice but to engage in dialogue to guard against the “barbarous” Islamic extremist attacks that have struck Kenya (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Multitudes braved heavy rain and cold weather as they made their way to the University of Nairobi grounds to attend Mass celebrated by Pope Francis Thursday morning.

Police said that an estimated one million people attended the Mass, at the university and the nearby Uhuru and Central parks. Millions more watched it on television in their homes and public gatherings.

Queues of faithful heading to the University of Nairobi grounds began swelling as early as 5am. Children accompanied their parents to see Pope Francis and take part in the historic mass.

It was the Pontiff’s first Mass in Africa.

According to State House, Kenyans had filled Nairobi streets from as early as 3am in spite of the rain that pounded the city all night.

About three in 10 Kenyans, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, are baptised Catholics.

Pope Francis was the main celebrant of Thursday’s Mass with John Cardinal Njue as the co-celebrant. Cardinal Njue also gave the vote of thanks to the Pope.

There was an estimated 4,000 priests who later assisted the Pope in giving Holy Communion to the faithful. Retired President Mwai Kibaki was among them.

Besides the 60 cardinals, archbishops and bishops, there were also 1,000 nuns and an equal number of lay people who sat below the newly constructed altar.

READ MORE...

On the left side of the raised dais was the choir from 12 different churches from Nairobi, Machakos, Rongai, Mlolongo as well as the University of Nairobi and the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

The choir masters, Mr Mukasa Wafula and five-year-old Francis Mulei Mbithi, both coordinated the nearly 360 singers. Young Mbithi stood out.

Among the exceptional entertainers next to the choir was Father Katana from Mombasa who played the Kayamba in a style reminiscent of Mathias Keya, who played the instrument with alacrity when Pope John Paul II celebrated another mass at Uhuru Park in 1995.

The liturgical dancers, young boys and girls, about 20, animated the mass in their white and yellow T-shirts and Kenyan-flag coloured skirts for the girls.

Besides President Kenyatta, First Lady Margaret, Deputy President William Ruto and his wife, Rachel, other top politicians who attended Thursday’s mass were Mr Kibaki, former Vice President Moody Awori, Cord leaders Minister Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka among others.

There was no collection of offering.


REUTERS

Pope in Africa hopes to bridge Christian-Muslim faultlines NAIROBI | BY PHILIP PULLELLA AND GEORGE OBULUTSA NOVEMBER 26, 2015


Pope Francis talks to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO: Pope Francis (2nd R) walks with Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta (2nd L) after arriving in Nairobi as part of his Africa tour. (AFP: Simon Maina)

Pope Francis called on Wednesday for ethnic and religious reconciliation at the start of his first tour of Africa, where he will address a fast-growing Catholic population and seek to heal Christian-Muslim divisions.

The trip will see the head of the Catholic Church travel to Kenya and Uganda, both victim of Islamist militant attacks, and the Central African Republic, a country torn apart by Muslim-Christian strife.

In a speech delivered shortly after arriving in Kenya, the pope urged world leaders to pursue responsible economic development and to protect nature for future generations.

Francis is expected to address climate issues when he visits the regional U.N. headquarters in Nairobi on Thursday.

"To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing," the pope said in Nairobi.

He was speaking at State House, the official residence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is a Catholic along with about 30 percent of Kenya's 45 million people. As the pope drove into Nairobi from airport, thousands lined the roads to greet him.

Africa's Catholic Church is expanding quickly, with the number of faithful expected to more than double to half a billion in 2050. The number of Muslims on the continent is also forecast to rise by about the same amount to 670 million.

At State House, the pope called for responsible development in Africa and elsewhere. One of his first actions in Kenya was to plant a tree on the State House grounds.

"The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature," he said. "We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to the future generations."

Millions of Christians - Catholics and otherwise - are expected to turn out for public celebrations of Masses during the tour, presenting a challenge for national security forces to keep the pontiff and the vast crowds safe.

Kenya has suffered a spate of attacks by Somalia's Islamist group al Shabaab in the past two years that have killed hundreds of people, including the 2013 raid on a Nairobi shopping mall that killed 67. Kenya has also been plagued by ethnic tensions.

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"Recent events around the world have indeed taught us that we must do even more to bring unity and understanding between faiths, between ethnicities, between races, but also between nations," Kenyatta said at State House.

Thousands of police have been deployed in Nairobi and officers will also be out in force in the Ugandan capital Kampala, which the pope visits next.

Potentially the most hazardous stop may be the third in the Central African Republic. Dozens of people have been killed there since September in violence between mostly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militias.

The pope brushed off security worries, telling reporters on his flight: "The only thing I'm concerned about is the mosquitoes. Did you bring your spray?"

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and John Stonestreet)

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Al Shabaab insurgents kill at least 13 in Mogadishu hotel car bombing Updated 26 Jul 2015, 6:13pm


Al Shebaab insurgents detonate a huge car bomb at a heavily guarded hotel in Mogadishu PHOTO: People stand near a destroyed car near the damaged Jazeera Palace hotel following a suicide attack in Mogadishu. (AFP)

The suicide attack, the latest in a string of bomb blasts and killings in Somalia, came as US president Barack Obama left neighbouring Kenya and headed to Ethiopia.

"We have carried 13 dead people and 21 others who were injured, some seriously," an ambulance worker Abdikadir Abdirahman said.

The Jazeera Palace hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia PHOTO: The front of the damaged Jazeera Palace hotel following a suicide attack. (AFP) Local resident Abdihakim Ainte, a political analyst, was nearby when the bomb exploded and described a "huge blast" that smashed his window.

He said the hotel had been "torn apart" by the blast, and photographs shared on social media showed the side of the six-storey hotel demolished by the explosion.

The enormous blast also sent a thick plume of smoke high into the air.

In a statement quoted by jihadist websites, Al Shabaab said they attacked the Jazeera Palace hotel in the capital, which is also home to the diplomatic missions of China, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and is popular among Somali government officials and foreign visitors.

The group said the suicide bomber had attacked the hotel "in retaliation for the killing of dozens of innocent civilians" they claimed had died during attacks this week by Ethiopian forces against Shabaab bases in southern Somalia.

Journalist Mohamed Abdikarim, who worked for Universal TV, was among those killed, the National Union of Somali Journalists said in a message of condolence to his family.

The Jazeera is close to the fortified international airport, which houses the United Nations, Western diplomatic missions and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).

The hotel has been the target of Shabaab attacks in the past, including in 2012 when suicide bombers stormed the hotel while president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was inside.

Mr Mohamud on Sunday condemned the "heinous terrorist attack" and said Al Shabaab attacked a civilian target because they were losing territory to government and AU troops.

AMISOM, which helped to evacuate the wounded and rescue those who had been staying in the hotel, said it "demonstrates the demonic agenda" of the militant group.

Al Shabaab weakened but 'still pose threat'

Al Shabaab are fighting to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed government which is propped up and protected by the 22,000-strong AMISOM force.

On Saturday, Shabaab gunmen in Mogadishu killed MP Abdulahi Hussein Mohamud, spraying his vehicle with gunfire as he travelled through a southern district of the city, killing him, his two guards and the driver.

Mr Obama, speaking in Nairobi on Saturday, said that while Al Shabaab had been "weakened", the overall security threat posed by the group remained.

"We have been able to decrease their effective control within Somalia and have weakened those networks operating here in East Africa. That doesn't mean the problem is solved," Mr Obama said.

"We can degrade significantly the capacity of the terrorist organisations, but they can still do damage."

Somali government and AMISOM troops last week launched a fresh offensive it said was aimed at flushing the insurgents out of rural areas in southern Somalia, in an operation involving Ethiopian and Kenyan forces.

Deployed to Somalia since 2007, AMISOM has helped push back Al Shabaab across much of the country's south, retaking towns and territory the group had held for years.

US drone strikes have also taken their toll on Shabaab, killing senior commanders, including the group's leader Ahmed Godane in September last year. AFP/Reuters


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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