Inside Pope Francis’ Envisioned Two-hour Dialogue with Catholic Youth in Africa


Everything is set for the November 1 dialogue between Pope Francis and young people drawn from various Catholic universities from African countries.

In a Tuesday, October 25 interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Leonida Katunge who is heading the national steering committee for Kenyan participants in the dialogue estimated that over 3, 000 people will follow the virtual event which has brought on board youths from nine African countries to seek solidarity with the Holy father in the challenges they face on the continent.

Countries participating in the initiative of the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) are the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congo Brazzaville, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast. 

Other countries will be roped in at the end of the six-month pilot project that is aimed at stirring the participation of the youth in the Synodal conversations, and to inspire them to be engaged fully in the “life of the Church and society”.

The listening session between Pope Francis and the African Catholic youths that has been estimated to run for two hours is set to begin at 3:00 p.m. Rome time on November 1, All Saints’ Day.


The session will start with pre-recorded video messages from Catholic Bishops in Africa who have been engaging in Synodal conversations with the university students.

Catholic Bishops’ messages will be followed by welcoming speeches from partners in the PACTPAN project dubbed, “Building Bridges Across Africa: A Synodal Encounter Between Pope Francis and University Students”. 

The partners are the Vatican coordinating team members, and Coordinating consultant, Prof. Peter Jones of Loyola University Chicago and his team from North America and Latin America, as well as Fr. Stan Chu Ilo who is coordinating the African team.

The core business of the day is the discussions with the Holy Father, Sr. Katunge told ACI Africa, adding that two sets of talking points have been developed to guide the dialogue.

“We have five talking points for the English-speaking countries and four talking points for the French-speaking countries. These talking points have been developed from the outcomes of the conversations we have been having with our youth from the start of this project in September,” the member of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of the Archdiocese of Mombasa said. 

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She added, “It will be about the youth sharing their experiences with Pope Francis and at the end of it, seeking the advice of the Holy Father. It will not be a moment to complain about the challenges of the continent.”

The interaction is set to be pegged on the three steps of the Synod on Synodality, which include listening, discernment, and action, with rootedness in the Holy Spirit. 

Nine young people from the participating countries have been selected to present the talking points on behalf of their cohorts. The Holy Father is expected to react to each of the nine talking points after they are presented.

Those who will be presenting the talking points are students who have proved that they will have stable network to limit interruptions in the virtual event, Sr. Katunge said during the October 25 interview.

She added, “We have also made sure that those presenting are very well prepared by taking them through rehearsals. We would like to have a seamless experience and so, we have been working to ensure that all systems are well connected for that important day.”


The session is expected to end with a reflection from Pope Francis and a prayer, after which participants in the dialogue will be called upon to take back the fruits of the listening exercise with the Holy Father to their respective universities for implementation.

The two-hour virtual event is to be livestreamed on Catholic media platforms including Catholic Television of Nigeria (CTN) and Capuchin TV in Kenya, as well as on the PACTPAN YouTube channel.

Sharing her experience from working on the national steering team for Kenya, Sr. Katunge admitted that it had not been easy to bring the young people from the various countries together in such a short time. 

The Kenyan Catholic Nun said, “Initially, not many youths were interested to join the program since, I think, they didn’t see it going through to the level of engagement with the Holy Father. It was only when they saw the fruitful engagement with the Bishops that they started expressing interest to come on board.”

The Catholic Nun who works as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya expressed gratitude to the Holy Father for turning his attention to the youths in Africa in Synodal conversations.

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“We thank God for this great opportunity. We are excited to meet the Holy Father and to converse with him one on one. As organizers of this initiative, we also appreciate the young people who expressed great enthusiasm to participate in this project,” Sr. Katunge told ACI Africa October 25.

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.