Nairobi prepares for papal visit

City braces for influx of pilgrims.

Nairobi is preparing for Pope Francis's three-day visit from 25-27 November, the highlight of which will be a Mass in front of an estimated 1.5 million faithful at Uhuru Park on 26 November.

The government has advised Nairobi residents to expect major disruptions caused by large crowds of pilgrims in the capital. Referring to the July visit by US president Barack Obama, the state house spokesperson Manoah Esipisu said: “In that instance people ran away from the city. Now they’ll be rushing in.”

In addition to meeting with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and government officials, the pope will hold talks with Protestant, Hindu, Muslim and other religious leaders. A key part of the pontiff's visit will be a visit to the city's slums to “highlight the plight of poverty” and view the work of church aid agencies. He will also hold a meeting with young people from all over Kenya.

There are 1.4 million Catholics in Nairobi, and 14 million across Kenya.

The last time a pope visited Nairobi was the visit of John Paul II in September 1995. On that occasion pilgrims trekked 500-km from the coastal city of Mombasa, as well as from distant mountain regions. JP II also visited Nairobi in 1980 and 1985.

On 27 November Pope Francis will make his way to Uganda, before travelling to the Central African Republic on 29 November.