22 November, 2015
Pope Francis will make his first trip to Africa on November 25 to 30, visiting Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic.
The Vatican said the pope had been invited by the heads of state and local bishops to visit each of those countries.
Africa is home to the fastest-growing number of Catholics in the world. The number of Catholics in Africa grew to 200 million people in 35 years. That is a 238 percent increase.
At the same time, the number of Catholics in Europe increased by just 6 percent, says a new study, called "Global Catholicism: Trends and Forecasts." It was published by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA, in Washington, D.C.
Pope Francis became the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and Vatican in March 2013. Since then, he has shaken the Catholic Church with his progressive views. He has been less conservative on issues like homosexuality and divorce.
Pope Francis has talked about fewer restrictions on divorced Catholics. He has spoken about possible support for married priests. And he has urged a greater role for women and more compassion for homosexual people.
In Africa, his views will please some people and offend others.
Tsoholofelo Legodi, a 21-year-old member of Johannesburg's largest Catholic Church, Regina Mundi. She is a big fan of Pope Francis.
"I love him!" she said.
Rodgers Mwendwa, a recent university graduate in Kenya, was also looking forward to the pope's visit:
"Actually, we are waiting for a message of hope from Pope, from how he conducts himself. I think he will bring a good impact and a positive attitude to the people, and we should embrace what he's bringing to Kenyans because he's our role model."
Pope Francis will arrive in Nairobi on November 25.
In the past decade, a few groups of Catholic priests have married in Kenya. Pope Francis has not endorsed this. But he said the Vatican is looking into the issue of married priests.
Samuel Gitau is a member of Nairobi's Holy Family Minor Basilica. He does not believe that priests should marry:
"When they marry, I feel they will not be able to concentrate in the church affairs, yeah."
It is homosexuality that may generate the most controversy for Pope Francis in Africa. The pope said that marriage should remain an institution between a man and a woman. But he has not ruled out civil unions.
And he has urged love and mercy for homosexuals.
Kenya, however, outlines its position clearly on this issue: Homosexuality is illegal there.
Church members say they do not agree with Pope Francis on this issue.
Adenaide Tendwa is a member of Nairobi's Holy Family Minor Basilica:
"Homosexuality shouldn't be there, because at the first, in the book, in the Bible we read, we need to get married and bring up children. Now when you bring homosexuality, that one will not be having a family."
Still, Catholics in Kenya said they are ready to set differences aside.
Josephine Kivuva is a church usher. "When the pope gives us direction, we need to follow it, according to the tradition of the church."
I'm Mary Gotschall.
Jill Craig and Anita Powell reported on this story for VOANews.com. Mary Gotschall adapted this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
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Words in This Story
bishops – n. an official in some Christian religions who is ranked higher than a priest and who is usually in charge of church matters in a specific geographical area
Vatican – n. the government of the Roman Catholic Church
homosexuality – n. the act of being sexually attracted to people of the same gender
divorce – n. the ending of a marriage by a legal process
priests – n. a person who has the authority to lead or perform ceremonies in some religions and especially in some Christian religions
compassion – n. a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.
forecasts – n. to say that (something) will happen in the future : to predict (something, such as weather) after looking at the information that is available
impact – n. a powerful or major influence or effect
embrace – v. to accept (something or someone) readily or gladly
endorsed – v. to publicly or officially say that you support or approve of (someone or something)
concentrate – v. to think about something : to give your attention to the thing you are doing, reading, etc.
civil unions – noun phrase a legal relationship between two people of the same sex that gives them some of the same rights and responsibilities that married people have