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 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.