KAMPALA, Uganda - Pope Francis arrived in Uganda on Friday on the second leg of his Africa pilgrimage, declaring Africa the "continent of hope" and honoring Uganda's most famous Christians.
Francis arrived from Kenya at Entebbe International Airport, where Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni welcomed him along with a military brass band, drummers, and dancers.
Francis, who is also scheduled to visit Central African Republic, is in Uganda mainly to honor the memory of a group of Ugandan Christians killed in the late 19th century on the orders of a local king eager to thwart the growing influence of Christianity.
Those victims, known as the Uganda Martyrs, include 45 Anglicans and Catholics killed between 1885 and 1887. Pope Paul VI canonized the 22 Catholics in 1964.
"They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude, and commitment to the common good have played, and continue to play, in the cultural, economic, and political life of this country," Francis told Museveni and other Ugandan authorities and diplomats at a welcome ceremony at the State House. In a break with papal trip protocol, Museveni didn't offer welcoming remarks.
Later Friday, a remarkably enthusiastic crowd, complete with traditional dancers and shrieking faithful, greeted Francis as he arrived at a shrine honoring the martyrs in Munyonyo, where they were condemned to death. Francis said that their witness helped Christianity grow in Uganda, and that the king's plot to "wipe out the followers of Christ" had failed.
Francis arrived in Kampala after a busy final day in Kenya that was highlighted by his visit to one of the capital's 11 slums and an off-the-cuff monologue to thousands of Kenyan youths about preventing young people from falling prey to corruption and radicalization to go fight with extremist groups.
In the Kangemi shanty, Francis denounced conditions slum-dwellers are forced to live in, saying that access to safe water is a basic human right and that everyone should have dignified, adequate housing, access to sanitation, schools, and hospitals. "To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice," he said.
Residents lined the mud streets to welcome Francis, standing alongside goats and hens outside the corrugated tin-roofed shacks where many of the shantytown's small businesses operate: beauty parlors, cellphone "top-up" shops, and storefront evangelical churches.
Those lucky enough to score a spot at St. Joseph's parish erupted in cheers and hymns when Francis arrived, ululating and waving paper flags printed with his photo and the "Kariba Kenya" welcome that has been ubiquitous on the pope's first-ever visit to Africa.
Francis, known as the "slum pope" for his ministry in Buenos Aires' shantytowns, has frequently insisted on the need for the three L's - land, labor, and lodging. On Friday he focused on lodging as a critical issue facing the world amid rapid urbanization that is helping to upset Earth's ecological balance.
Kangemi is one of 11 slums dotting Nairobi, East Africa's largest city, and is home to about 50,000 people. The U.N. Habitat program says some 60 percent of Nairobi's population lives on just 6 percent of the city's residential land in these unofficial settlements lacking basic sanitation or regular running water.
Francis denounced the practice of private corporations grabbing land illegally, depriving schools of their playgrounds and forcing the poor into ever more tightly packed slums, where violence and addiction are rampant.
In January, police tear-gassed schoolchildren demonstrating against the removal of their school's playground, which has been allegedly grabbed by powerful people. After an outcry, the Kenyan government declared the playground the property of the school.
"These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries," Francis said.
His message was welcomed by residents of Kangemi, who said the city only pipes in water three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday, but it's not safe to drink. Garbage collection goes to only those who can pay for it.
"Some people don't have toilets in their homes," said Emily Night, a mother of two who works at the St. Joseph's HIV counseling program. "Those that do, maybe 50 people are using it!"
Francis raised the issue of environmental deterioration in cities in his landmark encyclical "Praise Be," saying many megacities today have simply become health threats, "not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise."