Pope Francis visits the Italian island of Sicily on Saturday to pay homage to a priest murdered by the mafia 25 years ago after trying to save youngsters in poor neighbourhoods from falling into their hands.
The Argentinian pontiff’s visit will be brief but is part of a wider campaign he has been waging against organised crime.
He is expected to arrive in Palermo at 10.45am (0845 GMT) and will say mass, then head to the Palermo parish where Father Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Puglisi lived. He returns to Rome in the early evening.
Puglisi, known as “the first martyr of the Mafia”, was shot dead on September 15, 1993, his 56th birthday.
He is said to have uttered his last words to his killer, “I’ve been waiting for you”, before dying on the doorstep of his modest home.
His assassination came at a time when Italy was already traumatised by the killings of anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
For the previous two years Puglisi had been parish priest in the rough Palermo neighbourhood of Brancaccio, where he attempted to engage the local youth and keep them away from drugs and the mafia groups who supplied them.
In 2012 Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI officially recognised Puglisi as a “martyr” who was “killed by hatred of the faith”.
The following year he was beatified in the presence of 40 bishops and 750 priests as well as the Italian interior and justice ministers.
Beatification is the first step on the path to Roman Catholic sainthood.
Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has openly confronted the mafia — often benefactors and practising members of Catholic parishes — and called on the faithful to stop all collaboration with them.
The pontiff has already visited Naples and Calabria, other Cosa Nostra hotspots in Italy’s south.
In 2015 in Naples, the notorious fiefdom of the country’s oldest organised crime syndicate the Camorra, he condemned those “who exploit and corrupt young people, the poor and the disadvantaged”.
“Corruption stinks! And a corrupt society stinks. A Christian who allows corruption to enter is not a Christian. They stink,” he proclaimed in an angry speech.
In Calabria, he called on Catholics to combat the Calabrian mob, known as the ‘Ndrangheta.
“Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God,” the pope said during his Calabria visit. “They are excommunicated” he declared to thunderous applause from the 100,000 people who came to hear him.
Excommunication is the severest penalty for Catholics, banishing them from the spiritual life and sacraments of the church.
Local bishops have already excommunicated mafia members but the Vatican is considering creating a new doctrine excommunicating organised crime group members worldwide.
The pope has often denounced the “money stained with blood, which leads to an evil power” and called on mafiosi to “change your lives. Convert. Stop doing evil”.
His comments hark back to an angry address by Pope John Paul II in the Sicilian town of Agrigente in 1993 when he called on mobsters to “convert yourselves!” and urged ordinary Sicilians to revolt against the mafia.
The Sicilian Godfathers responded two months later with attacks against two Catholic churches.
Despite the papal rhetoric, relations between the church and organised crime groups have often been ambiguous.
The Vatican’s bank, the Institute of Religious Works (IOR), became notorious after the 1982 death of Roberto Calvi, known as “God’s banker” because of his links to the Vatican, whose corpse was discovered hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.
Prosecutors believe it was a mafia killing linked to money laundering via the bank.
There have also been attempts to bribe or otherwise influence priests and the misappropriation of resources from institutions and charities, and questions over the purchase of Vatican real estate in the past.
In southern Italy religious processions sometimes stop outside the home of a local mafia boss.
But some local bishops are taking a stand.
Last year, the bishop of Monreale, near Palermo, made headlines by criticising a priest who had allowed the son of one of Sicily’s most notorious mobsters, Toto Riina, to act as godfather at a baptism.
In late 2016, a priest in southern Italy who had wanted to hold a mass in memory of a ‘Ndrangheta mafia boss murdered in Quebec was taken to task by the mayor, the archbishop and his parishioners.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.