Vatican officially announces Francis' November Africa trip

by Joshua J. McElwee

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The Vatican on Thursday officially announced Pope Francis' upcoming visit to the African continent, confirming the pontiff will travel to three countries Nov. 25-30.

The whirlwind five-night tour is expected to see Francis visit three African capitals: Nairobi, in Kenya from Nov. 25-27; Kampala, in Uganda from Nov. 27-29; and Bangui, in the Central African Republic from Nov. 29-30.

Taking place just two months after the pontiff's upcoming September visit to Cuba and the U.S., the African tour could be the scene of some dramatic moments -- especially in the Central African Republic, which has experienced reoccurring and bloody sectarian conflicts over the past decade. 

In an interview with an African Catholic news service earlier this month, the Vatican's ambassador to Kenya and South Sudan said Francis is expected to have a public Mass in Nairobi and a meeting with area priests and religious during his visit to Kenya.

The pontiff, said Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, will also likely visit the U.N. offices in that city and one of the area slums.

Balvo said he thinks the pope wants to make the trip particularly "in relation to the political situation in Central African Republic, the serious unrest, the violence, that was a concern to him."

"These kind of things, migrants, immigrants, places where there is some social unrest, are of special concern to him," said the archbishop. "If people can remember, the first trip out of Rome that he made was to the small island of Lampedusa, where many of the migrants on these ramshackle boats that leave the North African coast often end up."

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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