Pope Francis Greeted by Cheering Crowd of 150,000 in Uganda

The pope offered a message of hope and prayer.

ByDavid Wright
November 28, 2015, 3:32 PM

— -- An exuberant crowd of young people, 150,000 strong, welcomed Pope Francis today in Kampala, Uganda.

They sang. They danced, some wearing colorful grass skirts, others sporting feathered headdresses. And they smiled.

Their message to him: that Catholicism is more than a Sunday ritual to them. It is a tribe, an extended family and a shared sense of identity. Catholics make up nearly half the country.

Francis listened intently to testimony from 24-year-old Winnie Nansumba, who was born with an HIV infection and lost both her parents to AIDS before she was 7. He also heard from a young man, Emmanuel Odokonyero, who was abducted and tortured as a child by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Francis reciprocated by tossing aside his prepared remarks and speaking from the heart, giving three pieces of advice.

Overcome difficulties, he said: Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged by life’s hardships, instead let faith give you courage.

Second, he advised: Do your best to turn the negative into the positive, citing Nansumba and Odokonyero as prime examples.

Thirdly, he told them, pray. Ask for help from a power higher than yourself.

"When we stumble or fall down or hurt ourselves, who better to turn to for help than our mother?" he asked.

"And who is our Mother?"

"Mother Mary," they shouted in unison, repeating it three times.

Then Pope Francis joined them in that most fundamental of Catholic prayers, the Hail Mary, with 150,000 voices sounding as one.

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