“Honored”: Kenyan Nun after Faith Influencers Handed Olive Tree From Pope Francis

Pope Francis speaks to young people during the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 3, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Sr. Leunida Katunge is all smiles as she poses with a young potted plant. It is an olive plant that she, alongside other officials, received from Pope Francis on behalf of the Catholic Faith Influencers who are meeting on the sidelines of the 2023 World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal.

It is the same olive tree that Pope Francis watered after addressing young people on Thursday, August 3, reminding them of the "dramatic" urgency for them to take care of the environment.

The olive tree from Pope Francis came as a pleasant surprise to the young people, Sr. Katunge told ACI Africa, moments after receiving the tree from one of the Holy Father’s guards.

“We are greatly honored,” Sr. Katunge said on Friday, August 4, and added, “I am holding an olive tree that Pope Francis watered yesterday. He passed it over to us to also water it.”

Sr. Katunge said that the plant was to be returned to the Holy Father after being watered by the faith influencers who met on August 4 for their first ever encounter at at Plaza de Martim Moniz in Lisbon.


The Kenyan Nun is the coordinator of the African Synodal Digital Youth Influencers (ASDYI) under Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) in collaboration with the Rome-based Dicastery for Communications.

ASDYI is part of the global movement of young people evangelizing digital peripheries under the Dyscatsery for Communications.

For their August 4 encounter, the digital influencers had planned a get-together to exchange pleasantries, and to have an opportunity to get to know each other. 

Other events at the festival included speeches and entertainment including the showcasing of cultures from different countries.

Pope Francis reportedly watered the olive tree, which has been described as "the symbol of peace."

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The Holy Father performed the ceremony at the local branch of his Scholas Occurrentes foundation, a movement he founded in 2013 some 20 miles west of Lisbon, to bring young people from different backgrounds and nationalities together.

Earlier, Pope Francis had urged young people to combine fighting to save the planet with tackling poverty during an address to students at Lisbon's Catholic University. 

"We must recognise the dramatic and urgent need to care for our common home," the Holy Father said, and added, "Yet this cannot be done without a real change of heart... We cannot be satisfied with mere palliative measures or timid and ambiguous compromises."

Meanwhile, the meeting in Lisbon is the first time that the African team of digital youth influencers is meeting their peers from all over the world. It is also the first time for the young people coming from different African countries to meet physically.

On August 3, the Catholic Influencers attended Mass at the Catholic university of Portugal where the prefect of the dicastery for communications, Dr. Paolo Ruffini was present.


In a statement that PACTPAN shared with ACI Africa, Catholic Influencers from Africa described the event as "a great day where influencers from different parts of the world were gathered to elevate their hearts in prayer as they thanked the Lord."

The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by 4 Cardinals and many con-celebrating priests. Africa had 4 priests present all from Togo, CAR, Sierra Leone and Cameroon.

Catholic Influencers from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, Kenya and São Tomé and Principe attended the August 3 Mass. 

Each of the influencers present was given a cross and a small card that had been given by the Holy Father bearing his image.

"We were called to become true disciples by bearing that cross to the entire world," the Influencers from Africa said, and added, "For the offertory we all offered our Social Media platform accounts to the Lord by sticking notes on an image in the form of a cross all intended to ask the lord to Receive all that we do via social media."

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Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.