(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis leaves on Wednesday, November 25, for his first apostolic trip to Africa. The Holy Father plans to travel to Uganda and the Central African Republic later in the week, but his first stop will be Kenya.

Kenya has faced many challenges over the past few years, from political crises to terrorist attacks committed by Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based terrorist group. It is hoped the visit by Pope Francis will promote national healing.

“There is excitement, anticipation, and a lot of joy, because the visit of the Holy Father is a great succour for the Christians,” said David Omwoyo, the Director of Communications, at the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Remember that the time when the Holy Father started to reflect a bit on the challenges facing the Church in Kenya and spoke of his intention to visit, if possible, was after the many terrorist attacks,” Omwoyo said.

“At that time the Church felt really persecuted, and the Holy Father’s intention was to come and show solidarity with the people,” he continued.  “As the intention to make the trip materialized over time, the need to come and bring together religious and political leaders in national reconciliation and peace-building and demonstrate solidarity with the young people and Church leaders was very great.”

Omwoyo pointed out that Kenya has improved its intelligence and policing, and there has not been any major terrorist event or political violence recently.

“Kenya is very safe at the moment…among one of the safest countries on the African continent,” he said.